Terror, trade and transit to dominate SAARC summit next week
Terrorism, trade and transit will be the three big themes at the landmark summit of an expanded South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) the next week that will include Afghanistan as its eighth member.
The 14th SAARC summit, that will take place in New Delhi between April 3-4 at the Vigyan Bhavan convention centre, will underscore a larger global interest in the region with the United States, the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea participating as observers for the first time in the 22-year-old history of the regional grouping.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Bangladesh Chief Advisor to the interim administration Fakhruddin Ahmed, Bhutan Prime Minister Khandu Wangchuk, Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will attend the summit.
Foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea-Li Zhaoxing, Taro Aso and Song Minm respectively will make brief presentations at the opening session of the summit. The US will be represented by Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of state for South and Central Asia.
The meeting of the programme committee on Friday will kick off a list of official events in the run-up to the summit.
It will be followed by the 33rd meeting of the standing committee at the level of foreign secretaries over the next two days. The Council of Ministers meet will be held on Monday a day before the two-day summit starts.
The focus will be on making the SAARC a more efficient organisation and move it towards implementing some of the crucial regional projects that have been long under discussion, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.
The idea is to make the next 20 years of SAARC, as Manmohan Singh said at the last summit in Dhaka, different from the previous 20 years that was mostly preoccupied in producing grand-sounding documents but had little to show by way of result on the ground.
"As India's global stature grows and its economy continues to boom, it has a greater stake in promoting economic integration in the region," SD Muni, a South Asia expert, said.