Visakhapatnam, Sep 28 (UNI) The Andhra Pradesh State Council for Higher Education Chairman K C Reddy today said though the region was rich in natural resources, it was not successful in reaping the benefits accrued with regional cooperation under South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) mainly due to political mistrust.
Delivering the keynote address at the 'National Seminar on SAARC: The New Image and Challenges' organised by the Centre for SAARC Studies of Andhra University here, Mr Reddy pointed out SAARC was socially and economically backward compared to other regions, barring Sub-Saharan Africa.
Two-thirds of the South Asia population were living below the poverty line.
The process of economic integration of SAARC member countries was also painfully slow with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal still remaining in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDC) with only two of them achieving a higher level of development, he said.
Pointing out to wide variation between Sri Lanka and Maldives on one side and the rest of the countries on the other in human development, Prof Reddy stressed India had to perform better in times to come to attain reasonable levels of human security.
He also underscored the importance of reducing rural-urban divide with enhanced infrastructure facilities and employment-oriented programmes in the rural areas with effective implementation and quality governance with firm commitment on the part of the policy makers.
In its more than two decade existence, the SAARC achieved very little either politically or economically, excluding the implementation of SAFTA.
Besides the challenges of the human deprivation and poverty, SAARC region was confronting problems such as terrorism and rise in Defence expenditure at the cost of human security, Prof Reddy said.