Visits Visits

Statement by External Affairs Minister on arrival at Thimphu for the SAARC Summit

April 26, 2010

My visit to Thimphu, Bhutan to attend the Sixteenth SAARC Summit comes at a very special juncture. This year marks the 25th anniversary of SAARC. This is also the first time that Bhutan will be hosting a SAARC summit.

The Sixteenth Summit will give Member States an opportunity to introspect on the past and chart a course for the future. Bhutan has chosen ‘Climate Change’ as the theme of the Summit. The ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ has been entitled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. The theme is expected to be reinforced by the signing of a SAARC Convention on Cooperation in Environment by the Foreign Ministers in the presence of the Heads of State and Governments of SAARC Member States. An Agreement on Trade in Services will also be signed during the Summit, thereby opening up new vistas of economic cooperation among SAARC countries.

Over the years, SAARC has made visible strides and achieved many milestones. It has created the institutional and legal framework for regional cooperation through agreements and programmes covering almost every area of importance to the region, ranging from Poverty Alleviation and Food Security to Terrorism and Women’s Empowerment. Its focus on grassroots development is designed to cater to "the welfare of the people of South Asia” and to bring about an improvement "in their quality of life.” With the depth of challenges facing the region, the transformation of SAARC within a quarter of a century to a dynamic vehicle of regional economic cooperation is indeed remarkable. The asymmetric and non-reciprocal participation by India has been an important factor in this process. This has inspired other SAARC Member States to take similar initiative on regional projects.

SAARC Member States have committed themselves to strengthening regional economic cooperation through SAARC, particularly over the three years since the New Delhi Summit in April 2007. It is to the credit of SAARC, that despite the global financial recession, trade under SAFTA since its implementation in 2006 amounted to USD 689 million. Moreover, the basket of tradeable items is also quite diverse from manufacturing to agriculture products. All Member States have also reiterated their resolve to facilitate greater trade liberalization measures and greater tariff reductions.

As we head for the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu, we are imbued with a sense of confidence and optimism in SAARC as a vehicle for regional development.

April 26, 2010


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