Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says the failure of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to deliver acceptable results for all members would spell out a bleak future for the organisation.
It would also compel Sri Lanka to look towards other viable options, the Prime Minister said, referring to the indefinite suspension of the 19th SAARC summit that was to be held in Islamabad as five of the eight nations including Sri Lanka have pulled out from the summit due to the unconducive environment prevailing in the region.
The Sri Lankan Premier made these remarks delivering a lecture titled, “Sri Lanka and its Place in the World” at the Main Hall of the New Zealand Parliament House on Monday.
The lecture which was organised by the Asia New Zealand Foundation, was attended by New Zealand Parliamentarians, Academics, Sri Lankans and many others. Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation, and former Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand presided over this gathering.
Explaining that while the failure of SAARC to deliver acceptable results for all members would spell out a bleak future, it would also compel Sri Lanka to look towards other viable options.
The Premier noted that following the recent attacks in Uri upon an Indian Camp, the SAARC Summit which was scheduled to be held in November, in Islamabad, Pakistan, has since been postponed.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe recalled the SAARC summit of 1985, when Sri Lanka proposed countering border terrorism, which was ultimately not agreed upon due to disagreements among the parties.
“This year’s SAARC summit is in jeopardy due to the war prevailing on the border. However, as the SAARC plays an important role, carrying out the Summit is a matter of great importance,” the Premier said.
During his speech, the Prime Minister stated that a simple basis which all the Member States could agree upon must be achieved in order to move forwards in the wake of the present situation.
Referring to his speech at the Indian Ocean Conference held in Singapore last August, he said that in viewing the challenges posed by the future, and taking into account modern world trends, it was imperative that the ASEAN and SAARC work together, so as to benefit all parties involved and improve regional cooperation.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe pointed out that similarly the time has come to formulate a new system to boost Economic and Trade ties among the Commonwealth Nations, and that in the aftermath of Britain leaving the European Union, the 2013 Commonwealth Summit which saw the ‘Kotte Statement on International Trade and Investment’, could be adopted.
“In order for these to succeed, attention should be focused on the Indian Ocean region,” the Premier said.
He asserted that regional economy and development is not merely a matter of the past, but the future too is based upon the strength of the Indian Ocean region.
The Premier closed his address by explaining Sri Lanka’s future plans to develop the Island as an Economic and Financial Hub of the Indian Ocean.