Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Address in Maldives

Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the people of the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, I bring to our brothers and sisters of the Maldives islands, greetings and good wishes. Despite the expansive space between us, the similarities we share are bringing our countries closer. Apart from the distinction of being the two smallest members of the SAARC, we are bound together by an amazing range of circumstances and aspirations. We are equally challenged in the nurturing of our infant democracies just as our fragile ecologies are threatened in equal measure by the continuing rise in global temperature. Likewise, we are both compelled to diversify our growing but vulnerable economies even as our GDP numbers are on the rise. In recognizing our own future as being conditioned by the prospects of the region, we find ourselves deeply committed to the process of unlocking the vast potentials of SAARC .

Therefore, it is with a deep sense of happiness that I welcome the mantle of SAARC leadership being passed into the capable hands of His Excellency President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives. Supported by the youngest and first lady Secretary General of the SAARC who too is from the Maldives, I have no doubt that President Nasheed will take advantage of their combined youth and daring to bring fresh perspectives and dynamism to our association. On our part, Bhutan would like to offer the assurances of full support and cooperation.

My delegation welcomes ‘Building Bridges’ as the theme of the Seventeenth SAARC Summit. Constrained by restrictive laws and extremely poor connectivity, we are today the least integrated region in the world. Intra-regional trade is not more than 5% of our total trade volume while cultural and other forms of interaction among our peoples are equally limited by this deficiency among others. Focus on bridging the gaps should, therefore, serve our region well.

Excellencies,

Each of us, in varying degrees, has demands at home that make it difficult to spend time elsewhere. But to be able to come together as we have been doing for the 17th time, is a remarkable testimony to our shared recognition of the promises of SAARC. It also speaks eloquently of our respect for each other as neighbours. These offer the makings of great outcomes. Yet, we do share the feeling that our regional cooperation ought to yield much more. Why is this so?

Not the least of the reasons appears to be our failure to reconcile with geopolitical and historical realities. We have allowed ourselves to be guided by counsel and politics of the kind that dwell in the past while being fearful of the future. Good intentions are thus foiled or remain simply in documents. In effect, it is the lack of political will which holds us back. Coming in the way of substantive collaboration, this is stalling our progress as nations and as a region. It makes us guilty of depriving South Asia from the opportunity to flourish as a peaceful region and for its people to be free from the misery of poverty and fear of insecurity that millions continue to endure.

Yet, I do fully subscribe to the wisdom of being mindful of the historical process in the making of our individual nations in South Asia. But what I see in our history, geography and all such realities, are more convincing reasons and opportunities for us to combine than the few that would have us believe otherwise. In this regard, it is with deep modesty that I wish to share with you my own country’s experience. Some time early in our journey of development and modernization, we chose to accept and appreciate our geo-political realities and, adopting with sincerity, a positive stance, we explored instead, the pluses. This optimism led to a perception of the limitless opportunities that had been obscured by the veil of doubts and suspicion. If today, my country is beginning to succeed in vastly improving the wellbeing of our people, without compromising any national interest, it is because of the conscious choice we made. It is because of the trust and the mutually beneficial cooperation we have succeeded in establishing with our closest neighbour in South Asia.

I have seen and have been heartened by the courageous efforts made by some of our leaders of the larger countries. Sadly, these have been thwarted by certain individuals and organizations including the, sometimes, mischievous media. Claiming superior sense of patriotism and prudence, these antagonists of trust, have thrived for too long on furthering and perpetuating a discordant region and by confining goodwill to symbolic gestures. It is their zealous notions and our submission to their manipulations that have caused misplacement of our precious resources. To a measurable extent, it is they to whom we may give the credit for our region’s ignominy as the home to half the world’s poorest.

As leaders who must embody the higher values of our nations and serve as means for their aspirations, we need to be bigger and bolder than those that have held us back by their dogged pursuit of what is not helping and not working. And the bigger among us have every reason to be bigger in thought and bolder in action.

Here, I do not despair. I have been inspired by the wisdom and the conviction of each of the leaders in our region. My encounters with all my esteemed colleagues, especially during my visit to their capitals, have raised my hopes and enriched my own understanding of the immense possibilities. Supported by a growing citizenry, the SAARC of today has leaders who want to break free from the bondage of doubt and doubters, build trust and forge ahead to access what we have always known are vast potentials. I am convinced that, together, we can overcome what have stood in our way to make South Asia harmonious and prosperous. Together, we can lead the world as indeed, some among us are demonstrating on their own. To this rightful end, I invite all SAARC citizens, the media, civil society and other opinion leaders to further inspire and support the leaders in their endeavours. Let us create an environment for our collective and harmonious progress. Let us build bridges.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

My call for the nations of South Asia to strive together is not just to serve our own region. It is equally for the larger good of humanity. The need of the hour is for all nations to come together to face the far greater challenge of human survival and that of all other life forms for which we have the responsibility of stewardship.

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Speeches of HPM