“Bhutan has not only progressed but has matured a lot in its political system since its transition to democracy,” said the new SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem who made his first visit to Bhutan since he assumed the post last March.
During his visit he met with Bhutanese counterparts from the foreign ministry and the SAARC division under the ministry. Some of the main issues discussed during the meeting were about making the SAARC institutions more effective and efficient. The Secretary General said one of the issues discussed was about the efficiency of various SAARC centers in the region.
“There are a total of 11 SAARC centers in the region and these centers invest around USD 8.8mn,” he said while emphasizing that it was high time to look into these matters as well.
On this the director general for the Department of SAARC and Regional organization, Sonam Tshong said: “We have asked the secretariat to study the efficiencies of the SAARC centers in the region. The statement was made on the basis of the findings of the secretariat about some SAARC centers not being very effective.”
However, the Secretary General, said SAARC having come a long way since 1986 is in itself a tremendous achievement.
Responding to queries about SAARC’s functioning due to the recent political turmoil, he said that it had no effect on any SAARC ventures. “The SAARC institution had its own ups and downs since it’s geopolitically a volatile region,” said the Secretary General.
Asked about Bhutan’s contribution to the regional association, he told the Bhutanese that, “Although small countries like Bhutan and Maldives are not able to contribute comparatively like the other big countries, Bhutan has contributed tremendously by hosting the offices of the SAARC Development Fund Secretariat and the SAARC Forestry Centre.”
The importance of trade in the region was highly emphasized by the SAARC delegates. The positive development aspect between India and Pakistan was also seen to have positive implications on rest of the SAARC countries.
Meanwhile in response to the critics around the region claiming SAARC as an ineffective body, the Secretary General responded that some of the most developed countries like the US, China and even Japan are willing to work along with the SAARC institution.
The secretary general while in Thimphu called on the Prime Minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley last Thursday on 24 May 2012. During which the Lyonchen wished him well in his tenure as the secretary general and also assured Bhutan’s continuous support to the SAARC process.