speach10

Statement by Hon’ble Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan and Chair of SAARC on the occasion of SAARC Charter Day on 8 December, 2010.

Excellencies,
Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Secretary General of SAARC,

Dashos,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

25 years ago, on 8 December 1985 at the First SAARC Summit in Dhaka, our founding fathers,

Desirous of promoting peace, stability, amity and progress in South Asia;

Conscious that in an interdependent world, the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved by fostering mutual understanding, good neighborly relations and meaningful cooperation;

Convinced that regional cooperation is mutually beneficial and necessary for promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of the peoples of the region; and

Recognizing that cooperation among the countries of South Asia would contribute significantly to national and collective self-reliance, and to the promotion of friendship and understanding among their peoples;

Signed the SAARC Charter establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to promote regional cooperation within an institutional framework.

Today, 8 December 2010 marks the 25th Anniversary of SAARC and we gather this evening to commemorate this historic occasion.

Over the last 25 years, the countries of South Asia have strived together to realize our common hopes and aspirations for a harmonious and prosperous South Asia.

When compared to other regional organizations, SAARC’s journey has not been one of astounding success. We have had our ups and downs, but there are also many achievements of which we can justifiably be proud. In fact, many people wrote off SAARC even before it had begun. The fact that SAARC has not only survived but is beginning to prosper is reason enough for us to celebrate tonight.

There are those who feel that SAARC can do more. But the faith of my country in SAARC has never faltered for we believe in the goodness, wisdom and patience of the South Asian people to come together to overcome our differences. South Asia has far more reason to be together than apart. In the end, we have no choice but to work together for our geography, culture and history conspire to ensure that we are inter twined and destined for a common future.Over the past two and a half decades, particularly in the last five years, SAARC has made significant progress in a wide array of regional cooperation. Thanks to our cooperation in the economic area, the volume of trade under SAARC is set to cross the billion dollar mark soon. We have established 11 regional centres of excellence, including one in Bhutan, to promote, build and exchange professional knowledge in agriculture, forestry, meteorology, energy, HIV/AIDS, culture, natural disaster, human resource, etc.. A SAARC Development Fund with the Secretariat here in Thimphu has been set up to provide predictable and assured funding for SAARC projects. Cooperation in the area of higher education has resulted in the opening in August this year of a South Asian University in New Delhi. On cooperation in addressing the impact of climate change, I have received news from Cancun, that the Bhutanese delegation with the support of fellow SAARC delegates have been successful in registering SAARC as an Observer to COP16, and even as I speak, the leader of the Bhutanese delegation would be presenting the Common SAARC Statement on Climate Change at COP 16. Similarly, we have signed a number of legal instruments to enable cooperation to combat terrorism, narcotics, trafficking in women and children, poverty alleviation, health, and so forth.

Less visible but equally meaningful, each SAARC interaction in the last 25 years among the political leaders, officials, business, academics, youth, parliamentarians, artists and such like have helped to humanize our relationship. The more we interact, the clearer it becomes that we in South Asia have far more in common and are much closer to each other than the media or our recent political history would suggest.

Excellencies,

Bhutan has always considered SAARC a very important organization and therefore it was a matter of deep honour and satisfaction for the Royal Government and the people of Bhutan that we were finally able to host a SAARC Summit in Thimphu in April this year – the Silver Jubilee year of our Association – a Summit that has been widely described both by the Member States and the international media as a resounding success. Our success would not have been possible without the support that we received from the Member States, the SAARC Secretariat and the dedication of our agencies and citizens involved in its organization. To all I say … Thank You !

Now that Bhutan is the SAARC Chair, it will be my and the Royal Government’s endeavour to ensure that the momentum and positive environment generated by the Thimphu Summit is maintained and built on. At the Summit, a number of important decisions were taken, as reflected in the Summit declaration and the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change. While some of these have already been implemented, others are work in progress. However, there are few that will require further consultation and follow up at the highest political level for which I have already started my visit to the SAARC Capitals. I have visited New Delhi and Colombo and expect to cover the other capitals soon.

There are many who say that SAARC is hostage to the bilateral climate. But as someone who has been associated with SAARC in one way or other since its inception, I have come to believe that cooperation under SAARC has helped to promote trust and understanding among the Member States and reinforce the reality that nations of South Asia can truly succeed when they carry the good wishes and support of their neighbours.

While SAARC has made impressive achievements in many areas, we as nations and as a region have a long way to go in fulfilling the SAARC vision. But we must not lose hope. We can build a South Asia that will not only help itself but once again become a hub of global trade, culture and ideas. And SAARC must be the inspiring force.

With these thoughts in mind, I intend, during my tenure as the SAARC Chair to work closely with the Secretary General of SAARC and the Member States and also consult civil society groups.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity of the Silver Jubilee of SAARC to re-iterate the highest priority that the Royal Government of Bhutan attaches to fulfilling its role as a proud member of SAARC.

Tashi Delek !

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