Regional cooperation is one of the top foreign policy priorities for Bangladesh, the state minister for foreign affairs tells a virtual Horasis extraordinary meet
The performance of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) remains below expectations even 35 years after inception, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said on Thursday.
Addressing a virtual extraordinary meeting organized by Horasis, a Switzerland-based independent think tank, he also said regional cooperation is one of the top foreign policy priorities for the government of Bangladesh.
Dhaka firmly believes that it is essential that all the countries of the region develop together for long-term stability and sustainable development of this region, he added.
"We must acknowledge that South Asia’s potentials to grow are enormous. The journey is still bumpy," the state minister told the audience on the topic – Potentials for South Asia.
The region faces an uphill task of sustainable development, a significant component of which could best be addressed through a successful intermingling with the rest of the world, he added.
"The South Asian leadership took a lot of important decisions in the past, which need successful implementation. The regional countries successfully mobilized Corona Emergency Fund, to cite a very recent example, which lifted confidence of the Saarc member states," he added.
"Established in 1985, the regional organization Saarc leaves a lot to expect in terms of integrating the region," said Shahriar.
“From its earliest days, Bangladesh has mooted that we must focus on the countries of South Asia, sub-regionally as in BBIN or regionally as in Saarc and Bimstec, and harness all available synergies and vast potentials of this region for mutual benefit,” he added.
The South Asian region attained consistent economic growth in the last three decades, said the state minister.
However, he said the fact remains that this region is still not as integrated as the potentials would suggest.
"Trade and investment volume of almost all the Saarc member states have multiplied manifolds in the last few decades. Nevertheless, in terms of intra-regional flow of goods and capitals, a lot is still left to be expected," he added.
To hold on to the momentum and remain the fastest growing sub-region of the world, South Asian public and private institutions must deliver better, Shahriar said.
"It needs to continue economic reforms, maintain macroeconomic stability, and foster greater cooperation and integration among neighbours," he said.
The state minister said that despite encouraging signs, South Asia cannot remain complacent.
“To retain growth, the regional countries have to implement pre-declared reform measures and launch a new wave of structural reform, particularly in all factors of production such as land, labour and capital,” he said.