SAARC has problems, BIMSTEC full of energy, says Jaishankar

JPEG - 7.3 kb

Economic Times, India

7 June 2019

SAARC has problems, BIMSTEC full of energy, says Jaishankar

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Newly appointed external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday rued the fact that South Asia is among the least inter-connected regions in the world, but efforts are being made to make the region more integrated. Referring to BIMSTEC, which connects South Asia with Southeast Asia, Jaishankar said that India has strong synergy with other BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) states.

“If you look around the world, it is among the least connected regions due to multiple reasons such as history, identity, etc. A lot of attention was given in the past five years to make it more connected and I am very confident that it would be among our top priorities for the next five years,” said Jaishankar at an interactive session at ‘The Growth Net Summit 7.0’, organised by public policy body Ananta Aspen Centre.

This was Jaishankar’s first public appearance since he was appointed foreign minister last week.

“The first development which can bring about the change is for the countries to realise that they are losing out by not being connected enough and most of the South Asian countries understand this today,” he said.

Referring to the BIMSTEC leaders who were invited for the swearing-in ceremony, he said that India sees energy, mindset and possibility in the BIMSTEC.

“The first development which can bring about the change is for the countries to realise that they are losing out by not being connected enough and most of the South Asian countries understand this today,” he said.

Referring to the BIMSTEC leaders who were invited for the swearing-in ceremony, he said that India sees energy, mindset and possibility in the BIMSTEC.

“SAARC has certain problems and I think we all know what it is even if you were to put the terrorism issue aside, there are connectivity and trade issues. If you look at why BIMSTEC leaders were invited for PM’s swearing-in, because we see energy, mindset and possibility in BIMSTEC,” he said in an indirect reference to Pakistan’s intransigence on SAARC connectivity pact.

“If we want to propel economic growth, then there is greater responsibility for Indian foreign policy to focus on the external aspect of it,” the minister said, adding that he would launch PRAGATI within MEA to review projects undertaken or piloted by the ministry abroad.

There is big responsibility on the external affairs ministry to focus on project execution which has strategic significance, he pointed out. Jaishankar said that he has been in constant touch with finance and commerce ministries to avoid silo approach in governance.

He assured that Indians around the world will be assisted, taking forward the work and social media outreach of his predecessor Sushma Swaraj. “Today, Indians abroad expect the government to help them. This has changed the image of the foreign ministry,” he said, giving credit to former foreign minister Swaraj. Jaishankar further said that a large majority of people in India have recognised that the country’s stature in the world has risen in the past five years. He said a “global rebalancing” is taking place and the “sharpest manifestation” of that is the rise of China, and to an extent, India as well.

keywords:
source: Economic Times