Informal Meet Of SAARC Council Of Ministers

The Foreign Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met informally for the ‘Council of Ministers Meeting’ at New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The meet was chaired by Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, the Foreign Minister of Nepal. Foreign Ministers of SAARC Member States, the Secretary General of SAARC and delegates from SAARC member countries attended the meeting.

External Affairs Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj informed the SAARC members that India is committed to regional cooperation. New Delhi attaches highest priority to the development and prosperity of the south Asian region, under its’ “Neighbourhood First” policy. India is committed to sharing her progress with her neighbours. This has been best articulated by the vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC Summit.

India is willing to share the fruits of its economic, scientific and technological progress with the South Asian community. India has taken various initiatives including asymmetrical responsibilities for enhancing regional cooperation under SAARC.

The South Asia Satellite, a first of its kind initiative, was launched by India in May 2017. The project will touch the lives of the people even in remote areas of our region, through its wide ranging applications in health, education, disaster response, weather forecasting and communications.

Mrs. Swaraj observed that improving connectivity in all forms remains vital for progress of SAARC and for increasing people-to-people contacts. We are working on extending India’s National Knowledge Network to participating SAARC countries.

The Indian External Affairs Minister informed that the First leg of its extension to Sri Lanka was inaugurated in January 2018. Development of seamless physical connectivity is key for achieving regional growth, employment and prosperity.

Towards this objective, the member states collectively decided to finalize a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement, which, however, still remain pending.

India also hosted several official and technical level SAARC meetings including Governing Board meeting of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO), and meetings related to disaster management, agriculture, livestock and healthcare.

However, regional cooperation can only be successful if it meets the expectations of the people. The world is moving ahead to become more integrated and connected where movement of goods and people is becoming easier with each passing day.

Mrs. Swarah said SAARC needs to deliver on its commitments or risk being left behind. To realise the immense potential for trade, it is imperative that the further trade liberalization under South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and operationalisation of SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS) are done at the earliest.

Cooperation in the Energy sector is critical for meeting the region’s high energy needs. The SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation that our leaders signed at the 18th SAARC Summit has not yet entered in to force due to non-ratification by some Member States.

An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity of our people. The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia’s are on the rise. The Indian Minister observed.

Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region, and indeed in the world. It is necessary that the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination is eliminated and the ecosystem of its support is ended.

The Indian External Affairs Minister stated that SAARC can only be effective if expressions of resolve are translated in to concrete action on the ground. South Asian region has the potential to be the front-runner of growth and prosperity and is one of the fastest growing regions of the world.

Mrs. Swaraj said the true potential of the South Asian region can be realized only if all countries contribute constructively towards delivering on the commitments SAARC has made to the people of the region. India remains hopeful for a brighter future of SAARC together.

Script: Kaushik Roy, Air: News Analyst