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The SAARC Secretary General has urged regional cooperation for growth

ISLAMABAD: The Secretary General of SAARC, Ambassador Md. Golam Sarwar, has urged a fresh and committed approach to address the challenges that have been hampering SAARC’s progress for decades.
Speaking at an interactive session organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) in Islamabad, the SAARC Secretary General emphasized that the future success of the organization depends on member states putting aside political differences and prioritizing regional cooperation. The Secretary General said that the recent positive gestures by both India and Pakistan regarding SAARC were indeed a good sign and hoped that these gestures could potentially serve as an ‘icebreaker’ in the future.
Replying to a question on the scope of cooperation within SAARC, the Secretary General said that the organization has over time broadened its spectrum of cooperation in various areas of development. He specifically noted that food security and sustainable agriculture are central to SAARC’s cooperation framework, along with other key areas of cooperation.
While acknowledging the challenges faced by the Organization, the SAARC Secretary General emphasized its unwavering commitment to achieving core objectives such as strengthening intra-regional trade, promoting people-to-people interactions, combating poverty, tackling climate change, improving public health and promoting women and youth development. He also discussed the progress made to date in these key areas.

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Reacting to the Secretary General’s remarks, Chairman of the IRS, Ambassador Jauhar Saleem, said the Secretary General’s remarks duly conveyed a sense of SAARC’s renewed resolve to tackle the challenges and continue its efforts to promote regional cooperation and development in a wide range of sectors. . He further stated that ‘Pakistan is fully committed to the SAARC vision and has remained steadfast in advancing the SAARC objectives’.
Ambassador Ghulam Dastagir, former Director of SAARC Secretariat, said there is a need to go beyond formal proclamations and work sincerely to advance SAARC’s people-centric agenda. He identified several areas within SAARC that require relatively little investment and effort, such as agriculture, medical cooperation, tourism, media cooperation and women and youth development. He suggested that the SAARC member states should focus on these areas to make progress and benefit the people of the region.

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Dr. Shaban Fayyaz, Associate Professor at QAU, said the SAARC Secretary General’s visit to Pakistan was a positive development for the region. It would help restore the confidence of SAARC member states in the organisation, she added. She further stated that “people-to-people contact is at the heart of regional integration in South Asia. Therefore, SAARC member states should facilitate people’s visits through a more relaxed visa regime, she stressed.