Islamabad, Secretary General (SAARC) Arjun Bahadur Thapa, called on the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and discussed matters of mutual interest. This was the Secretary General’s first visit to Pakistan since he assumed charge of his post.
Mr. Thapa, who was Foreign Secretary of Nepal, has also visited other SAARC countries including India, Bhutan and Bangladesh. During his stay in Islamabad, the Secretary General called on the Prime Minister and Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security & Foreign Affairs.
The Foreign Secretary hosted a lunch for the visiting Secretary General in which Heads of Missions of all SAARC countries as well Heads of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Regional Centres, based in Islamabad were invited.
Congratulating Mr. Thapa on his appointment, the Prime Minister expressed the hope that under his stewardship, SAARC would emerge as a catalyst for economic integration and connectivity in the region.
Prime Minister Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC process and outlined his vision for peace and prosperity in South Asia which was based on the economic revival of the region.
The Prime Minister stated he would like to see SAARC develop into a vibrant regional organization along the lines of the EU, GCC and ASEAN and focus on economic regional integration, energy cooperation and connectivity.
He added that with a population of over 3 billion, the SAARC region had much to offer and great prospects, but despite agreements such as SAFTA and SATIS, remained short of its potential. He looked forward to participating in the next Summit and interacting with other SAARC leaders.
Thanking the Prime Minister for receiving him, Mr. Thapa appreciated the Prime Minister’s vision for SAARC and South Asia at large.
He briefed Prime Minister Sharif about the upcoming 18th SAARC Summit scheduled to take place in November 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal, and said that the Prime Minister’s views about regional connectivity and economic integration would be invaluable in tailoring the Summit’s agenda.
He informed the Prime Minister that a major area of cooperation in the next SAARC Summit would be energy and hydro-carbon cooperation and connectivity.
Earlier, the Secretary General had called on Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs who assured him of Pakistan’s full support for the organization’s aims, objectives and activities.
The Advisor highlighted the importance of energy cooperation and connectivity within the region that would enhance trade and progress within SAARC.
He believed that the SAARC Secretariat could play an important role in bringing the member states together, and ensuring the timely implementation of SAARC programmes and activities that benefit the entire region. Mr. Thapa highlighted the important role that some regional centres had played in SAARC and drew attention to the effective work of the SAARC Energy Centre.