18th SAARC summit starts in Nepal with focus on integration

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-11-26 13:34:33

The 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit kicked off in Kathmandu Wednesday with focus on regional security, trade and integration issues.

SAARC faces significant challenges as it is one of the world's least integrated regions despite many promises made.

"Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity" is the summit's theme.

Since the early 1990s, several attempts have been initiated to boost South Asia's economic integration through a number of trade agreements at bilateral, sub-regional, and multilateral levels.

At the two-day meeting, Nepal will emphasize the importance of implementing past agreements that haven't been realized, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said at the opening ceremony.

"Welcome to Nepal. We meet here at a time when the international environment is changing rapidly and becoming interdependent. This region has the potential to gain global prominence," he said.

Preparations are underway to sign three SAARC agreements that aim to enhance integration in key areas. Foreign ministers from each member state are expected to sign the SAARC Railway Agreement, Motor Vehicle Agreement and Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation.

A 31-point draft declaration that touches on a wide range of issues including counterterrorism, the promotion of trade and investment, infrastructure development, youth employment, reduction of telecom tariffs, regional connectivity, social security for elderly people, literacy, and SAARC's transformation into the South Asian Economic Union by 2030 is to be released at the end of the summit.

On the second day of the Summit, the SAARC leaders will be taken to Dhulikhel for a retreat. The leaders will have an opportunity to hold informal talks for over two hours before they are flown back to Kathmandu after lunch.

The SAARC leaders will then attend the closing ceremony and witness the signing of three different SAARC-level agreements related to enhancing connectivity within the region.

Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav is scheduled to host a dinner at Shital Niwas later in the evening in honor of the visiting heads of state and government.

Besides the SAARC dignitaries, representatives from nine various Observers of SAARC including China and the United States have arrived in Kathmandu.

Established in 1985 in Bangladesh, the SAARC is a regional association of eight South Asian countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined SAARC as its eighth member in 2007.

blog comments powered by Disqus