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PM advocates for continuation of Saarc

Saarc still alive, she says

“The effectiveness of Saarc is still there and, I think, there’s a lot to work on it…Saarc is very much alive,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina was speaking in an interactive session titled ‘Harnessing Regional Cooperation in South Asia’ at the Congress Centre, Aspen 1, in Davos last evening on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and a Pakistani Civil Society member, among others, took part in the interactive session.

Talking about the issue whether Saarc is dead, the Prime Minister said there is no such scope in its charter for resolving bilateral issues through discussions.

Referring to the postponement of the last Saarc Summit in Pakistan, Hasina said, “What did happen that one Saarc Summit was postponed. There’s no reason for apprehension…the next Saarc Summit could take place in near future.”

Saarc, founded in Dhaka on December 8, 1985, is a regional intergovernmental organisation and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Saarc comprises 3 percent of the world’s area, 21 percent of the world’s population and 9.12 percent of the global economy, as of 2015.

Putting emphasis on forging a regional cooperation to change the fate of the people of this region, Hasina said poverty is the main energy of this region and the main emphasis should be on how to eradicate poverty.

She also suggested boosting trade and commerce, connectivity, and people-to-people contact among this region saying her government has been working to this end.

The Prime Minister said for the past four decades, Bangladesh has been steadfast in pursuing regional cooperation agenda in South Asia. In the 80s, Bangladesh worked with its regional partners to form Saarc and in the 90s, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).

“Later, we worked for sub-regional formations like South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC). Most recently, we’ve formed Bangladesh – Bhutan – India – Nepal (BBIN) and Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) to expand regional cooperation,” she added.

To boost economic activities of this region on a larger scale, the BCIM-EC is being implemented integrating big countries like China.

She mentioned that the road connectivity is being boosted among the region, including the BBIN countries, while waterways protocol has been renewed with India apart from strengthening Safta.

Besides, she informed that a plan is also there to launch Saarc satellite to boost cooperation in telecommunication among the member countries.

Asked about the Bangladesh government’s steps in combating the impacts of climate change, Hasina said her government had formed the climate change trust fund with own funding of $400 million without relying on others alongside framing some 134 action plans to prudently tackle the impacts of climate change.

“We’re also implementing various adaptation and mitigation programmes to face the adverse impacts of climate change,” Hasina said.

The Prime Minister also renewed her call to those rich and developed countries that are liable for global warming to extend support to the climate vulnerable countries.

Responding to another question on whether the coal-based power plants would hamper the country’s environment, she said Bangladesh is on the way to becoming a mid-income country by 2021 and for this there is a need for generating some 24,000 MW of power by within the timeframe.

“To generate such extent of power, we’ll have to go towards coal-based power generation,” Hasina said adding that the government is also diversifying its power generation through renewable energy and nuclear power.

She said high technology like super critical technology is being applied in coal-based power generation so that the pollution is kept at a minimum level.

About the ongoing war crimes trial, the Prime Minister said those who committed heinous crimes like genocide, killing, rape and arson are being tried and punished as per the law.

About the new US government possible policy on reshuffling of investment from one place to another, Hasina said it is not possible to withdraw investment overnight from a country or reshuffle from one place to another.

“But, we’re building our manpower and turning our population to skilled human resources through imparting training and giving education,” she added.

Source: Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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