Tuesday, September 26, 2017

SAARC chamber looks to Bangladesh to keep South Asia grouping alive

  • Senior Correspondent bdnews24.com
    Published: 2017-04-16 17:35:06 BdST

bdnews24

The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants Bangladesh to play a “leadership role” to keep the eight-country grouping alive.

“It is the people and government of Bangladesh that brought the SAARC into existence. So it is also time for Bangladesh to take that leadership again and keep it alive,” the chamber’s President Suraj Vaidya told bdnews24.com.

“As private sector, we’ll support you,” he said on Sunday in Dhaka on the sidelines of a discussion on the South Asian Free Trade Agreement or SAFTA.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan are the members of the economic and political forum that started functioning from 1985. But analysts say the association has no collective gains to show for.

It is often regarded as a ‘talking shop’. Some think-tanks now question the relevance of the organisation particularly after the postponement of the last summit which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad.

But member states, including Bangladesh, boycotted the summit amid a diplomatic war between India and Pakistan following the terrorist attacks on an Indian army base in Kashmir.

Vaidya, however, would not say SAARC failed.

“We are the youngest body if you compare it with the ASEAN and European Union,” Vaidya said. “We have so much potential.”

“What I worry as a private citizen as a business, should there be tension escalation between India and Pakistan, can we afford that? So we need support of all. We try to bring peace to the region. Otherwise we all will be affected,” he said, stressing the relevance of SAARC.

“All smaller nations of the association should play the role as mediators,” he said.

The current relations between Bangladesh and India give him hope as he believed that both India and Bangladesh have “big responsibilities” to make it happen.

“The prime minister’s leadership is amazing. We can see economic growth in Bangladesh. The relations with India are also excellent which will benefit the people,” Vaidya said.

“As a Nepali, I am proud that the prime minister has mentioned cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Nepal during her visit. She is a true visionary in terms of regional connectivity.”