Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based leading think tank, seeks greater focus on strengthening the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation taking all the SAARC members on board except Pakistan for enhancing regional trade and cooperation.
Despite many efforts since inception of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the three-decade old regional forum could not make any headway due to 'hindrance' from Pakistan, ORF distinguished fellow Pinak R Chakravarty, also former Indian high commissioner in Dhaka,told a group of Bangladesh journalists on Monday.
The journalists are visiting New Delhi at the invitation of the Indian External Affairs Ministry.
‘I'll urge Bangladesh government to concentrate very carefully on BIMSTEC... the East, I think, could be more relevant for Bangladesh,’ Pinak said.
‘Forget the SAARC at least for the time being,’ he said adding that they would take Afghanistan and the Maldives from the SAARC as BIMSTEC observers. So, you'll really have (BIMSTEC like) SAARC minus Pakistan plus Thailand and Myanmar.’
Pinak said they are trying to make BIMSTEC more active for regional cooperation as Pakistan wants to use SAARC as leverage for their purpose.
The remarks came amid the postponement of the 19th SAARC Summit, which was scheduled to be held in November in Islamabad, after most of its member countries, including Bangladesh refused to join it in the wake of 'Pakistan-sponsored' terrorist attacks on the Indian army in Kashmir.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka are the members of the SAARC, while Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan are the members of BIMSTEC.
Noting that terrorism is a problem in the region, the former diplomat said, ‘I think Bangladesh and India will have to set up better structures to fight terrorism.’
About Pakistan, he said, every country has an army but in Pakistan, the 'army has a country'. India has no interest at all to carry on fight with Pakistan but it is Pakistan which forced it to engage in fight.
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