The Eighteen South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit was held in Kathmandu, Nepal for two days from 26th to 27th November 2014.
The theme of the 18th SAARC Summit was “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity.”
In the press conference held yesterday in Thimphu, Minister for Foreign Affair, Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji said that the 18th SAARC summit in general was successful and the main outcome of the SAARC submit was the signing of the agreement for energy cooperation. He said that the agreement allows the foundation for energy cooperation between member countries.
The Leaders directed the relevant SAARC bodies and mechanisms to identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel, and implement them with high priority with a view to meeting the increasing demand for power in the region.
The SAARC summit welcomed the significant progress towards finalization of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement and agreed to hold a Meeting of the Transport Ministers within three months in order to finalize the Agreements for approval.
He said that better connectivity is essential and the current theme of the SAARC submits was for the deeper integration for the peace and prosperity for the region.
Lyonpo said that initially Bhutan had planned to signed three agreements, on motor vehicles , rail way and energy but it could not be done as some of the countries did not have time to complete the internal procedures.
Lyonchhen’s delegation to the summit included Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Lyonpo D.N. Dhungyel, Ministry of Information and Communication, Mr. Yeshey Dorji, MoFA and other senior officials from MoFA.
At the inaugural session of the summit, Lyonchhen conveyed the warm greetings and good wishes of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgay Wangchuck. Talking on the theme of the summit – ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’Lyonchhen said ‘We believe that whether we do so now, on our own terms, or later, under compulsion- forces are at play, which can only be adequately addressed through the collective endeavors of all nations. Such united, coordinated responses are imperative in order to tackle cross border crimes like terrorism, trafficking in humans and drugs, as well as to address wider common challenges like climate change, poverty alleviation and indeed to realize our dreams of prospering together through increased intra-regional trade.’
In the morning of the closing day, the Heads of the State/Government, Foreign/External Ministers and the Foreign Secretaries were flow to the Dwarika’s Resort, Dhulikhel for retreat.
The 19th SAARC Summit will be held in Pakistan.
In the sideline of the SAARC Summit many bilateral meetings were held between the SAARC member countries:
On November 25, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay held the first bilateral meeting with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Lyonchhen thanked the President for Sri Lanka’s generous support in training and educating Bhutanese students pursuing medicine in Sri Lanka. The President congratulated Lyonchhen for the wonderful speech during the inaugural of the summit.
On November 26, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay met with Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. Lyonchhen congratulated Mr. Modi for the excellent speech delivered during the inaugural of the summit. The Indian Prime Minister commended on Bhutan’s endeavor to declare the year 2015 as the National Reading Year and committed to send experts who organized ‘Gujarat is Reading’ to Bhutan. Mr. Modi also extended an invitation to Lyonchhen to attend ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ in January next year. This was the third meeting between Lyonchhen and Mr. Modi within a time span of six month.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay met with Mr. Sushil Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal on November 26, 2014. Lyonchhen thanked Mr. Koirala for extending immediate hospitality to him and his delegates to visit the three holy sites – Swayambhunath; Bouddhanath; and Pashupatinath on the day of his arrival in Nepal. Lyonchhen also thanked Mr. Koirala for the wonderful arrangements of the 18th SAARC Summit.
On 26th November 2014 Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay met with Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, President of Afghanistan. Dr. Ahmadzai commended Lyonchhen for the wonderful speech delivered during the inaugural session of the summit. Dr. Ahmadzai is a Scholar and expert on South Asia.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay met Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan in Kathmandu, Nepal on November 26, 2014. Lyonchhen said that he look forward to working with Pakistan in harnessing the opportunities existing in the SAARC region.
Apart from the bilateral meeting with the SAARC member countries Lyonchhen was called upon by Ms. Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Affairs, USA and H.E Dr. Abbas Akhoundi, Minister of Road and Urban Development, Iran.
The SAARC meeting directed SAFTA Ministerial Council and SAFTA Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services.
They stressed on expeditious development of projects under SDF addressing the livelihood issues of the peoples of the region.
The Leaders reiterated their strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty and directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Heads of State or Government agreed to increase investment, promote research and development, facilitate technical cooperation and apply innovative, appropriate and reliable technologies in the agriculture sector for enhancing productivity to ensure food and nutritional security in the region. They also underscored the importance of promoting sustainable agriculture. The Leaders directed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the Member States to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal time food difficulty.
They directed the relevant bodies/mechanisms for effective implementation of SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Thimphu Statement on Climate Change, including taking into account the existential threats posed by climate change to some SAARC Member States. They welcomed the decision to establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre.
The leaders directed their Education Ministers to develop a Regional Strategy for Enhancing the Quality of Education in order to raise the standards of South Asian educational institutions in order to better serve the youth in the region. The Leaders welcomed the progress with regard to the South Asian University.