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We must rejuvenate SAARC, says former Bhutan PM Tsering Tobgay

Tobgay's lecture was moderated by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran, and part of a monthly series organised by the Centre for Policy Research, to mark Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav

SAARC | India-Bhutan | Bhutan

Debarghya Sanyal  |  New Delhi 

Tshering Tobgay
Tsering Tobgay | Photo: Wikipedia

Speaking at the fifth “India and the World” lecture, former Prime Minister of Tsering Tobgay expressed concerns about the current status of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and, citing the recent political and economic crises in Sri Lanka, called for greater efforts to rejuvenate the regional intergovernmental organisation.

Tobgay’s lecture was moderated by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran, and part of a monthly series organised by the Centre for Policy Research, to mark Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Earlier, Saran had called and India an odd couple, pointing at the major differences in the two country’s economies and demographics. He asked Tobgay how India’s approach to its relations with its neighbours like or Pakistan should change to allay any anxieties that they might have from the “lumbering giant down south”.

In response, Tobgay assured that Bhutan had experienced immense generosity from India and expressed confidence that the South Asian giant maintains similar relations with all its neighbours. However, he emphasised, that “this generosity needs to be reciprocated by the neighbours too.”

He said, “The individual countries should work on equal terms with India, as Bhutan has done and found beneficial to its own economic growth and stability. The neighbourhood will grow and prosper with India’s growth and prosperity.”

Tobgay also emphasised India’s role as a leader in promoting renewable energy sources and stated that climate change is a global problem that needs to be tackled globally. Responding to whether climate change should be part of the agenda in BBIN — a body sub-regional cooperation with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal as its members — Tobgay welcomed the suggestion but emphasised that is the “mother organization” and should take the lead in confronting global leaders in carbon emissions such as the United States and China.

He concluded, looking at the crisis in Sri Lanka, "I often think: Where is Haven't we failed as an association to take care of our region?"

Thhroughout the lecture, the former Bhutan PM also spoke at length about what he described as the special relationship between Bhutan and India. He particularly PM Narendra Modi's enthusiasm toward clean and renewable energy sources. He also stated that nations in the Himalayan region should come together to form a “Third Pole Council” — referring to the Himalayas as the Third Pole of the world — and collectively tackle the environmental concerns plaguing the mountain range. This, he claimed, will benefit not just the Himalayan nations like Nepal and Bhutan, but also India and China which have large portions of their population living in the riverine plains at the foot of the Himalayas.

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First Published: Sun, August 14 2022. 21:05 IST