“SAARC has certain problem and we all know what it is. Even if you were to put terrorism issue aside there are connectivity issues, there are trade issues,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said
EXTERNAL Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that India will aim to enhance regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC grouping as there have been certain problems with SAARC. Speaking at a seminar, he also said that implementation of developmental projects in neighbouring countries and elsewhere will be one of his key focus areas.
In his first public comments after taking charge of the External Affairs Ministry, he also said regional connectivity is going to be a key priority for India and BIMSTEC could be a key vehicle for economic prosperity and regional integration. BIMSTEC, Jaishankar said, is witnessing a great deal of positive energy. It was decided to leverage that and invite the leaders of BIMSTEC nations to the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi last month, he added. “SAARC has certain problem and we all know what it is.
Even if you were to put terrorism issue aside there are connectivity issues, there are trade issues,” he said. He said there was enormous scope for improving India’s record in implementation of projects and that he is planning to personally monitor status of various key projects to ensure their speedy implementation. Asked about the US-China trade dispute, Jaishankar indicated that it may present an opportunity for India. Noting that South Asia was among the least interconnected regions in the world, the former Foreign Secretary said that India will look towards BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) to spur growth in the region. Citing continuing support to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, India has been maintaining that it was difficult to proceed with the SAARC initiative under current circumstances.
The last SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu, which was attended by Modi. The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit. The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate. Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative. In the past few years, India has been pushing for regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC umbrella. Besides India, BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
Founded in 1997, BIMSTEC currently represents over 1.5 billion people and has a combined gross domestic product of USD 3.5 trillion. In 2014, Modi had invited all SAARC leaders, including the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, in a major initiative to reach out to the neighbourhood. However, this time, the BIMSTEC leaders were invited, which was seen as an attempt to avoid inviting Pakistan for the event. He also talked about efforts by the US to undermine the global trading system including the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India’s global stature has risen in last five years: Jaishankar:
MOST Indians recognise that India’s global stature has risen in the last five years and this played a role in the NDA Government retaining power for a second consecutive term, External Affairs Minister (MEA) S Jaishankar said on Thursday. A “global rebalancing” is taking place and its “sharpest manifestation” is the rise of China and, to an extent, the rise of India as well, Jaishankar said during an interaction at a seminar. “A large majority of people in India recognised that India’s stature in the world has risen in the last five years,” the Minister said, adding that the Government has kept alive and perhaps even strengthened expectations of change in India.
The Government looks different from outside than from inside, Jaishankar, who served as Foreign Secretary from 2015-18, said without elaborating. In his first public event after becoming the External Affairs Minister, he also said the elections were a vote of confidence in the management of national security and foreign policy was integrated with it. JAishankar to embark on two-day visit to Bhutan from Friday, says MEA: EXTERNAL Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will embark on a two-day visit to Bhutan from Friday, his first overseas trip after assuming charge of the Ministry. MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said during the visit, Jaishankar would call on Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and is expected to receive an audience with King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. He will also hold talks with his Bhutanese counterpart Tandi Dorji. “It will be Jaishankar’s first visit abroad as the external affairs minister and reflects the importance that India attaches to its relationship with Bhutan, a close friend and neighbour,” Kumar said.