Vajpayee was strong advocate of South Asian cooperation: Saarc

New Delhi: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) on Friday condoled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death describing him as a strong advocate of cooperation within the South Asian region. In a message to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, Saarc Secretary General Amjad Hussain B. Sial said: “We have lost a great statesman, politician, writer, poet, and above all a humane person committed to peace.”

Sial, who is from Pakistan and assumed office as Saarc Secretary General in March last year, recalled Vajpayee’s statements at the 10th Saarc Summit in Colombo in 1998, in Kathmandu in 2002 and in Islamabad in 2004 and said: “His vision for a self-reliant and fully integrated South Asia continues to guide the Saarc process even today.”

The Saarc Secretary General also recalled Vajpayee’s “grand diplomatic gesture” of taking bus rides to Lahore and Dhaka during his Prime Ministership.

“Besides, as the three-time Prime Minister of India, Late Shri Vajpayee’s leadership greatly contributed to the prosperity and stability of India, and the country attained steady economic growth and became a leader in information technology,” Sial said.

“On behalf of officials at the Saarc Secretariat and on my own behalf, I wish to convey our sincere condolences to the bereaved family, the government and the people of India on the sad demise of Shri Vajpayee.” Vajpayee, 93, passed away on Thursday evening after a prolonged illness.

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