Standing Committee weighs ways to get best from Saarc observers

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
Standing Committee weighs ways to get best from Saarc observers

Nov 23, 2014-

The 41st session of the Saarc Standing Committee, which commenced in Kathmandu on Sunday morning, has agreed on two pacts and is defining the role of the observer nations.

The two-day meeting at the foreign secretary level initiated discussions on a 26-point agenda and agreed on two framework agreements to enhance rail and road link among the member states. Another proposed agreement on cooperation in the energy sector is in final stage.

According to a Nepali participant, the agenda of the meeting includes the Kathmandu Declaration.

Among the nine Saarc observers—China, US, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, Iran and EU—some are seeking their active role in the regional grouping while China is willing to have strategic partnership with South Asia. A proposal for greater Chinese engagement was forwarded by Pakistan during the 17th Summit in Male.

“A key issue we are discussing at the two-day session is the kind of role to be given to the Observers and the modality of cooperation with them,” said a Nepali official. A recent meeting of the Saarc Programming Committee in Kathmandu decided to engage the Observers in seven priority areas. They could fund and execute regional projects related to agriculture, communication, energy, connectivity (road, rail, waterway, and airway), environment, public health and economic cooperation.

“Our focus is on how to tap the potential of economic powers such as the US, China, Japan, EU and Australia in the Saarc process which can offer huge advantage to us economically and uplift the socio-economic status of the people in the region,” said the official.

Delegates hope the summit will work out some concrete ideas to improve the Observers’ engagement. Member states, however, agree that it is imperative to have deeper engagement and stronger ties among themselves first. But there is growing realisation among the members that embracing the Observers more openly could result in a stronger, vibrant and prosperous Saarc.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saarc Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa presented his periodic report, which was approved by the Committee with recommendations.

Members present country reports

The meeting deliberated on economic and financial cooperation. Also discussed were matters related to South Asian Regional Standards Organisation, Statistics, Saarc Arbitration Council, and Saarc Trade Fair. The Committee also discussed the Saarc Development Fund and the ways and means to make it an effective tool for development activities in the region.

Published: 24-11-2014 09:02

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