President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his address at the 16th SAARC Summit at Thimphu, Bhutan this evening urged the South Asian grouping to be more bold and strive to avoid externally induced rigid solutions from the West
President Rajapaksa said that despite many examples of the achievements gained within the SAARC region, South Asia sometimes underestimate it's collective strength and tends to discount the resources and skills it has, that can meet South Asia's development challenges as well as it's social and security needs.
"In fact, we often tend to provide priority to our engagements with extra regional actors, without devoting sufficient attention to further developing and strengthening the links within our own regional organization," President Rajapaksa said.
"Therefore, let us within our own grouping be bold enough to introspect. We must take measures to improve the existing mechanisms through review, rationalisation and reinvigoration. If there is a need, we should not hesitate to build new structures and mechanisms, to enable SAARC to reach its full potential," he said.
"As regards the world outside our region, the need of the hour is for SAARC to enhance its collective interactions on global issues. We must uphold our sovereign right to decide on what is best for us. We must strive to avoid externally induced rigid solutions. We must rather rally behind home grown and intra-regionally evolved measures. Towards this end, we should now endeavour to strengthen the mechanisms to speak with one voice on issues of common concern for our region in international fora, in particular at the United Nations," he added.
He also noted that the most effective means at to make SAARC an even more robust organisation is to link seamlessly the processes and activities of regional cooperation, with the aspirations of the mass of the South Asian people.
"Towards this end, let us see how like in several other areas of the world that have embarked on regional cooperation, we can best draw on the democratic and participatory tradition collectively represented by the Parliamentarians of South Asia, to boost the progress of SAARC. I would hope that indeed the time is not too distant, when we may within our region, envisage a regular Conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians. Such a Conclave will further engage the support and involvement of the People’s Representatives. It will thereby make SAARC popular within the region. The goal must be for SAARC to become truly people centric," President Rajapaksa added. (Daily Mirror online)