Friday, 8 August 2008

Bhutan : A decade of deeds, say SAARC leaders

7 August, 2008 - SAARC leaders called upon themselves to shed the “talk shop” tag from SAARC summits and vowed to make the next ten years a “decade of actions and implementations”.

The SAARC summits are criticised as a regional forum where more is said than done and a political exercise to boost egos.

In the declaration made during the 15th SAARC summit, leaders recognised the need for SAARC to further focus on developing and implementing regional and sub regional projects in agreed areas of priority.

Bhutanese prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, told Kuensel that all member states have agreed that two decades have gone by without much significant, substantive, meaningful and practical achievements.

“We have now agreed that we are in the first half of the third decade of SAARC and that the third must be the decade of implementation, decade of business and decade of productivity in terms of regional cooperation,” he said.

“This spirit of cooperation, understanding and, certainly, the growing realisation that we must work together, that SAARC must succeed, has prevailed throughout,” he said.

Four agreements were signed during the Summit. They were the Charter on SAARC development fund, Agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, Agreement on establishment of South Asian regional standards organization and Protocol on the accession of Afghanistan to SAFTA.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said that a far greater degree of enthusiasm was seen on the part of the larger countries.

“India is deeply committed to this process, Pakistan is clearly interested in seeing SAARC succeed, Bangladesh has so much to gain from this and Sri Lanka’s interest in the success of SAARC is evident in the way they have hosted this event. Afghanistan, who is interested and just joined, has great expectations in terms of what SAARC could offer. And we are committed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the summit focussed on, among others, terrorism, food crises and the energy crisis and their implication on impoverished countries in the region.

“Terrorism is on the top of the agenda mainly because there was no country in our sub region which does not suffer from the problem of terrorism. Bhutan is the most peaceful country but even in Bhutan we had fourteen bomb explosions in recent times,” said the prime minister.

It was agreed that there was need to activate and implement the agreements within the framework of the SAARC agreement on the control and elimination of terrorism. The new agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters was expected to bolster the one that already existed.

It was also declared that the next SAARC summit would be held in the Maldives.

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