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Some countries are hampering SAARC cooperation: MEA official

Mumbai: In an apparent swipe at Pakistan, a senior foreign ministry official today said here that some small countries were scuttling New Delhi’s efforts to improve the economic cooperation among the members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Addressing the annual banking conference ‘Fibac’ here this evening, A M Gondane, joint secretary at the Saarc desk of Ministry of External Affairs, said as the Saarc processes need complete consensus, a tiny minority can put a spoke in its wheel.

“With just one per cent objecting to a proposal, the whole 99 per cent comes down. But we are not frustrated. What we are thinking is that in case the process to move together is not happening, we are thinking of going ahead and pulling it somehow,” he said in reference to the regional FTA and other crucial cooperation treaties getting stuck.

Noting that some of the Saarc processes have taken over 30 years, he said it is moving “two steps forward and one step backward”.

As a result we have not been able to realise the aspirations of our political leadership, he said.

Gondane also said the MEA was working with the finance ministry to take forward the initiatives announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the last Saarc summit.

“One of them is a special purpose facility for creating connectivity infrastructure and consecutively trade. The finance and foreign ministries are in daily contact and we have almost got the structure fine-tuned and hopefully very soon we will see something of this,” Gondane said.

“We need to have trade, commerce, economic and trade cooperation. Then we have connectivity, roads, railways, waterways, inland waterways and coastal waterways…We are working,” he added.

On the USD 350 million Saarc Development Fund, he said there is an urgent need to increase the corpus as “we are thinking of something ambitious.