The eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will discuss the setting up of a forum to reinvigorate this bloc, which seems to be a step behind its regional counterparts such as the Association of South East Asian Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The setting up of the South Asia Forum will be discussed in detail over the next four days by the SAARC Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers.

“It should put pressure on the inter-governmental process,'' said sources about the proposal, adopted by the Prime Ministers and the Presidents at the 16th SAARC summit held here last April.

The forum, drawn from industry, academia and the government, is expected to generate debate, discussion and exchange of ideas on South Asia and its future development.

The forum will consist of eminent personalities of diverse backgrounds from all SAARC member-states. It would provide inputs for charting the future course of the SAARC and suggest improvements in the existing mechanisms.

The forum would function on the lines of public-private partnership and allow for multiple inputs beyond governments.

While the SAARC has made strides in setting up a development fund, a food bank and a university, other mechanisms are yet to grow in maturity.

The forum is expected to draw attention to the shortcomings and encourage governments to take initiatives that would ensure the progression of several regional issues from the declaratory to implementation stage.

The coming meetings will provide a more academic orientation to the South Asia University, discussing the modalities of setting up an Executive Council and an Academic Council.

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