Colombo, October 5 (The New Indian Express): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned that if the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) does not deliver the goods satisfactory to all the member states, Sri Lanka will have to look for other options.
However, he suggested ways to keep SAARC going as it can play an important role.
Wickremesinghe made these remarks in his speech on “Sri Lanka and its place in the world” at the Main Hall of the New Zealand parliament on Monday.
Referring to the indefinite postponement of the 19 th. SAARC summit at Islamabad because of a military confrontation between members India and Pakistan, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said that holding the summit is a “matter of great importance” because SAARC can play an important role in the South Asian region.
Wickremesinghe, therefore, suggested ways of sustaining SAARC. For one ,member states could agree on a few very simple things. In this context he referred to Sri Lanka’s suggestion made at the time SAARC was found in 1985, to have an agreement to abjure cross border terrorism. This suggestion was spurned at that time as not all members agreed, he recalled.
Incidentally, at that time, India was promoting the Tamil militant groups in Sri Lanka and giving them arms and bases in Tamil Nadu. The South Asian region would have been a peaceful place if the Sri Lankan suggestion had been adopted then.
Wickremesinghe’s other suggestion is to integrate SAARC with functioning associations in the Asian region like ASEAN and also the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister touted his new found theory that the Indian Ocean is going to be the region with a future and therefore, the Indian Ocean region should be integrated through effective mechanisms.