The sixteenth summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held on April 28-29, 2010 at Thimphu, Bhutan.
The summit was attended by the Prime Ministers of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan and Presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Apart from this, the summit was observed by representatives from Australia, Myanmar, US, EU, Iran, Japan, Korea and Mauritius.
The member -state leaders issued ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration: Towards a Happy and Green South Asia’ on the completion of the summit at Thimphu. The declaration consists of a number of new promises, agenda and planning. Here, I would like to draw your attention to some of the assurances and scheduling as stated in the summit declaration and other statements published by SAARC.
The state leaders agreed that the Silver Jubilee Year of SAARC should be commemorated by making SAARC truly action oriented by fulfilling commitments, implementing declarations and decisions and operationalizing instruments and living up to the hopes and aspirations of one-fifth of the world population.
The leaders agreed to set up some new forums like ‘South Asia Forum’, ‘Conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians’ and so on.
In order to foster people-centric development, with due emphasis on socio-cultural progress and upholding traditions and values, the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was noted and welcomed was Bhutan’s offer to host a SAARC Workshop on GNH in 2010.
The ‘Thimphu Statement on Climate Change’ was adopted by the member nations at the summit. According to it, the leaders agreed to take some actions.
It includes the following;
* Establish an Inter-governmental Expert Group on Climate Change to develop clear policy direction and guidance for regional cooperation as envisaged in the SAARC Plan of Action on Climate Change.
* Commission a study for presentation to the Seventeenth SAARC Summit, to be held at Maldives, on ‘Climate Risks in the Region: ways to comprehensively address the related social, economic and environmental challenges’.
* Commission a study to explore the feasibility of establishing a SAARC mechanism which would provide capital for projects that promote low-carbon technology and renewable energy; and a Low-carbon Research and Development Institute in South Asian University.
* Plant ten million trees over the next five years (2010-2015) as part of a regional aforestation and reforestation campaign, in accordance with national priorities and programmes of Member States.
The member countries also welcomed the signing of the SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and called for its early ratification and implementation. They called for further negotiations and early finalization of the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters as well.
Leaders directed the relevant SAARC committee to organize a SAARC Youth Summit, involving policy makers and youth leaders from all Member States.
It was said that the South Asia University will inaugurate its first session from August 2010. Further the leaders asked the Steering Committee to work towards finalizing the modalities of the University.
The Leaders agreed that an Action Plan on Energy conservation would be prepared by the SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Islamabad with inputs from the Member States and submit to the inter- governmental mechanism for consideration. They called for the creation of a web portal on Energy Conservation for exchange of information and sharing of best practices among SAARC Member States.
The Leaders noted the proposal from India for preparing a Roadmap for developing a SAARC Market for Electricity (SAME) on a regional basis, as SAARC is considering electricity trading, supported by enabling markets in the Member States.
This SAARC Summit has given India a sense of pride as Dr. Ravikant Singh from Bihar received the SAARC Youth Award 2009, for his exceptional contributions during the Bihar flood of August 2008. The flood affected over 2.3 million people in the northern part of Bihar. Dr. Singh, through his NGO (Doctors for You) mobilized 110 doctors for a period of six months. They treated about 130,000 patients and organized more than 300 Health camps. ‘Doctors for you’ was also involved in relief works including distribution of relief materials. In this process they distributed about 18 tons of relief material to the affected people.
The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh met other Prime ministers and Presidents of other member states on sideline meetings.
In his meeting with Pak Prime Minister, His Excellency Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, our PM said that India is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan and to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. At the same time he told that the issue of terrorism is holding back progress. In turn, Prime Minister Gilani said that Pakistan would not allow Pakistan territory to be used for terrorist activity directed against India.
The summit ended with lots of hopes, expectations and new promises. Till date, SAARC has not been able to live up to the expectations of people in South Asia, let us see what changes it will bring in future to strengthen regional cooperation and trust.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.