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‘People expect IPU to fill the void left by SAARC’

Indore: The SAARC is an unkept promise that has failed to live up to people’s expectations, Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU) President Saber Hossain Chowdhury said on Saturday. Chowdhury was of the view that people expect the IPU can fill the void left by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). “Looking at it from the point of view of people’s aspirations, what I’m saying is that the SAARC was an unkept promise. I’m not saying we (IPU) are a replacement for the SAARC but…I think this is what people would like to see,” he told.

The SAARC could have played a better role than certain groups like the European Union as it could have come up with a SAARC Central Bank or common currency apart from a platform to discuss issues like unemployment and health, he said. Chowdhury, who is an MP from Bangladesh, said the SAARC is entirely political and it is at the governmental level, whereas the IPU is the platform led by people who are elected by the people.

“So I think there is a difference. When you are talking on people to people basis, you are more frank. You can easily talk about your differences,” he added. To a query on border issues between the South Asian countries, Chowdhury said all such matters could be discussed mutually through integration of borders. “Borders should not be check points, they should be crossing points, and we can think of a region where there is a free flow of capital and labour,” he added.

Emphasising on trade, he said inter-regional trade within South Asia is less than 5 per cent which is very low compared to the European Union or the African Union. He added that IPU wants to create a structure and wants to add value to the ongoing discourse through the sustainable development goals so that it could give people the future they desire.

He said even when governments stop talking parliamentarians should continue the dialogue process. “At the Parliamentary level IPU stands for dialogue. You may have differences but talk about your differences,” he added.