Addu Island (Maldives), Nov. 8 (ANI): Stating that there was considerable amount of forward movement at the meeting of the SAARC Standing Committee, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on Tuesday said that a consensus was being built on the need to take South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) forward.
While briefing on the meeting of the Standing Committee of the SAARC, comprising of the Foreign Secretaries, Mathai said: "It has completed its deliberations after two days of work and the final report has been prepared. The Standing Committee report will go to the Council of Ministers, which meets tomorrow morning at 10 a.m."athai said that there was considerable forward movement in the committee.
"There was consensus on the need to take SAFTA forward. There was also agreement that on the sensitive lists all member states must fulfil their obligations of reducing their sensitive list in a time-bound manner," he added.
Mathai said that during the discussions on SAFTA, the Foreign Secretaries welcomed the progress which has been made by various countries inter-alia including Pakistan which had just announced the decision to normalise trade relations with India including the grant of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN).
"This is a step forward and we express the hope that all member states would fulfil their obligations under the SAFTA process," he added.
Speaking on the theme of the summit 'building bridges', Mathai said:" There was considerable amount of discussion on connectivity. As you know, the subject of the summit is 'building bridges', which is the Maldivian theme for the current summit and considerable amount of attention was focused on building connectivities and relationships-of transport, investment trade, travel and other arrangements-between all the member states."
Mathai said that the discussions took note of the activities of the South Asia Forum, which met in Delhi for the first time. Maldives would be hosting their next meeting of the forum, and the third meeting would be held in Pakistan. He said that the forum had an outreach to business, think tanks and civil society.
Mathai also disclosed that the Standing Committee took note of the activities of the South Asia University, based in Delhi and welcomed the progress it had registered including the suggestions received.
Ahead of the meeting of the Prime Ministers, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met today and discussed issues of mutual interest. Informed sources told Asian News International (ANI) that the issue of terrorism and grant of MFN status came up for discussion between foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan.
The central theme of the 17th SAARC summit -- building bridges-has been selected as a visionary thought to link past, present and future of SAARC without undermining the achievements of 26 years of building SAARC.
The XVII SAARC Summit takes place in Addu City, in the southern atolls of the Maldives, situated in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the third time that Maldives is hosting a SAARC Summit; it did so previously in 1997 (Ninth Summit) and 1990 (Fifth Summit).
The summit covers both the direct implication of connectivity between the SAARC Member States, and also the conceptual connotations of connecting peoples of the SAARC region in all facets, including social, economic, cultural, developmental aspects. This harmonizes with the observance of the current decade as the "SAARC Decade of Intra-Regional Connectivity".
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985 in Dhaka with seven members, as an expression of the region's collective decision to evolve a regional cooperative framework. ith Afghanistan joining the association in 2007, there are now eight member countries in SAARC namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The two-day summit is also expected to stress the need to have people-to-people contact in the region as one fifth of the world population lives in the SAARC region.
Presently, there are eight member countries in SAARC namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also has nine Observers, namely China, EU, Iran, Republic of Korea, Australia, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar and USA. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)