Down to business

  • Dignitaries from other Saarc nations will be in Nepal to do something concrete for the region, not to sightsee
- Shyam K.C.
Down to business

Nov 13, 2014-

This month, Nepal will be holding the 18th Saarc Summit, for which all-out preparations are underway. The first Saarc Summit was held in Dhaka way back in 1985 and according to the Saarc Charter adopted then by the heads of state and government, Saarc summits were to be held once a year. But this was not to be. The summits, in accordance with the Charter, were held once a year till the 6th summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1991. But thereafter, there were hitches—and reluctance among some member countries—and as a result, the next summit could be held only two years later in 1993 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The next two summits took place in two-year intervals and but the 10th summit took place just after a year, which was in accordance with the Charter, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. But the 11th Summit, held in Kathmandu, could only take place four years later in 2002. And Nepal is again playing host to the summit, three years after the last meet was held in 2011 in Addu city in the Maldives. Now three years later, the summit is being held in Kathmandu. Clearly, the enthusiasm and zeal that was shown by the founding leaders of the regional set-up is lacking among present-day regional leaders.

Growing aspirations

The leaders of the Saarc countries who will arrive in Nepal will see a beautified modern Kathmandu that has a neglected ancient priceless heritage. How much expense the country will have to undertake in order to ensure that the environment of the over-crowded city will prove eye-pleasing to the visiting seven heads of state and government of the South Asian region, including Afghanistan from Central Asia, will be known only later. But the people who inhabit the region are hoping that the Kathmandu Summit will be able to forge ahead in the overall good intentioned concept of regional cooperation among the countries of the region, something the regional grouping has failed to do so far despite the completion of 17 such summits.

The regional setup was an outcome of a number of factors, including fear among the smaller countries of the region that their very existence was at stake because of the global political and Cold War situation prevailing in the 1970s and early 1980s. But the two big, rival countries of the region were not so convinced and looked at the concept with scepticism. But ultimately, they too joined to form the then seven-member Saarc. Patterned after the European Economic Community—which later became the European Union with the Euro as its currency—Saarc sought to bring about economic and social prosperity to South Asia.

Meet to accomplish

The regional meetings of heads of state and government in any region are aimed at achieving something concrete for the benefit of the peoples of the area. Such meetings are not mere showpieces but concentrated work on certain targeted goals. Most of the work for the Saarc summits—as is the case in any other meetings—is done by government officials and sometimes, ministers. But the heads of state and government may or may not agree with all that the lower officials were able to achieve. For instance, in the first Saarc Summit in Bangladesh, the officials had recommended that the meet be held once in two years. But the seven heads of state and government overruled the recommendation and made the Saarc Summit an annual conference, which after 1991 proved to be impractical due to varied reasons.

This will be the third time that Kathmandu will be playing host to the Saarc Summit. And the areas the VVIP visitors are likely to visit are being given a facelift to show just how clean and beautiful Kathmandu is. The inner parts of the city remain neglected, both in terms of maintenance and traffic regulations. We tend to overlook the fact that the VVIPs are in Nepal not on a sightseeing tour but on a very important mission of really doing something concrete for the region and thereby preventing the peoples of the region from becoming disillusioned about the efficacy and worthiness of Saarc.

Security concerns

The need, therefore, to make the Saarc Summit totally businesslike and different from multiple state or official visits cannot be over emphasised. The only area where the host government has really to concentrate and spend on is the security of visitors. In today’s world, security has become a prime concern and considering the violence perpetrated by terrorists, it is only fitting that the hosts provide proper and tight security to visiting dignitaries. But the summit itself must be held in a businesslike manner that will prove less expensive and hence, more productive.

It makes one wonder whether New York prepares for the annual UN General Assembly in the same way and vigour as we do for the Saarc summit. New York hosts hundreds of heads of state and government each year in September but the fanfare and pomp that surround the Saarc summits is missing there because the UN General Assembly session is business as usual. Saarc summits at the regional level are virtually the same. So it would be wise on the part of regional leaders to ensure that such summits are held in a manner befitting the economic and political situation of the region.

Published: 14-11-2014 09:12

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