18th summit sees thaw in strained ties

  • Energy deal; motor, rail agendas to be followed up
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2014-

The 18th meeting of the South Asian Association for Region-al Cooperation wrapped up in Kathmandu on Thursday issuing a 36-point Kathmandu Declaration. The Saarc Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation (Electri-city) was signed as the two-day summit concluded.

Saarc leaders directed their foreign ministers to hold a meeting within three months to finalise the Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic, and Saarc Regional Agreement on Railways. As its major outcome, the summit adopted the declaration with a theme of “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity” to deepen cooperation in core areas of trade, investment, finance, energy, infrastructure and connectivity.

The summit decided to accelerate the process of creating free trade in the region and formulation and implementation of projects, programmes and activities of Saarc in a prioritised, focused and result-oriented manner. The summit also agreed to launch regional and sub-regional projects in the agreed areas of cooperation, especially in the area of poverty alleviation, infrastructure building, connectivity and energy.

Strengthening the Saarc Development Fund, effective implementation of the Saarc Action Plan on Poverty Alleviation with a view to making South Asia free of poverty and hunger, and enhancing regional connectivity through building and upgrading roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links, are other components of the agreement.

Utilising youth power for socio-economic development, especially through creation of employment opportunities at home and building collective positions for their security and welfare while on employment outside the region, was also agreed.

The declaration also included the member states’ commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and having effective cooperation among the member states for preventing the trafficking in persons, arms and drugs and exploitation of children for forced labour and increasing agricultural productivity and ensuring food and nutritional security.

Providing quality education, vocational training, eliminating illiteracy, and making South Asia an attractive tourist destination by adopting public-private partnership were other resolutions.

As a process of reform of Saarc institutions and mechanisms for making them more efficient, effective and result-oriented, the leaders decided to shut three regional centres and to merge four others, to avoid duplication of works, and to swiftly implement decisions and cut costs.

The regional leaders agreed to hold the meetings of the Saarc Summit every two years, or earlier if necessary; the Council of Ministers once a year; the Standing Committee at least once a year; and the Programming Committee at least twice a year.

They agreed to make the Programming Committee a Charter body of the regional grouping. The 19th summit will be held in Pakistan. The process began on November 22, with the meeting of the Programming Committee. The Standing Committee met on November 23-24, and the Council of Ministers convened its meeting on November 25.

During the inaugural session on November 26, heads of state and government of member countries delivered their policy statements reflecting their resolve and commitment for accelerating regional cooperation in areas of common interest. The observer delegates also made statements touching upon the need for enhanced level of cooperation between Saarc members and observer states.

Nepal pushed a separate proposal at the summit. Nepal is “driven by a vision of peace, stability and progress within an overall democratic polity, and is working to put the virtual cycle of peace process behind and embark on the path of peace and  democracy, according to Foreign Ministry.

Published: 28-11-2014 09:04

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