Nepal was under strict security surveillance as we landed at Kathmandu Airport in the last week of September 2000. Nevertheless, Prime Minister G. P. Koirala found time to receive us in spite of the latest Maoist attack and ensuing political crisis. Ambassador Bhek Bahadur Thapa, the first chairman of the Nepalese chapter of the SAF, had briefed the Prime Minister on the SAF’s activities, and the Prime Minister cited several examples of his promotion of regional cooperation through the SAARC programmes and promised full support to the SAF in its future activities.
The Secretary-General of the SAARC, Ambassador Nihal Rodrigo of Sri Lanka, also extended his full cooperation. He received us in his office, on the table of which lay a copy of my publication on Himalayan art.
During discussions, he suggested that the SAF commence its activities in smaller countries, such as Bhutan and the Maldives, whose governments need help, particularly in the field of information technology.
Ambassador Rodrigo expressed his concern that a lack of cooperation between the SAARC member states was holding back South Asia’s cultural, social and economic development, while its sister intergovernmental organizations – ASEAN, NAFTA and APEC – and the Indian Ocean Rim countries had moved closer toward regional cooperation.
He told us that the ball was in India and Pakistan’s court, and hoped that they would soon recognize the damage their confrontational policies were causing to themselves and other South Asian countries, and would turn to cooperative policies that would yield both economic and cultural rewards.
At a meeting arranged by Ambassador Rodrigo, I explained to the seven SAARC directors of their representative countries that the SAF was averse to re-treading the beaten path of funding meetings and conferences, as in the case of many NGOs. The SAF preferred to take an entirely different route to promote regional cooperation through education and other practical, job-creation projects that mobilize youth at grassroots levels.
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SAF Nepal Chapter
SAF Chairperson: Dr Nishchal Pandey
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SAF Vice-Chairperson : Dr. Jan Sharma