Heads of eight South Asian countries, including Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will on Wednesday seek a joint initiative to tackle climate change threats and also boost trade and regional cooperation among SAARC nations that more often than not do not see eye to eye with each other on most issues.
As the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference gets under way in this serene and pollution-free capital city of Bhutan the summit's key theme "Towards a Green and Happy South Asia" seems only apt.
Seeking a fresh approach to global climate talks the SAARC leaders will pitch for observer status to the bloc at the Mexico conference on global warming later this year. This will enable the eight South Asian nations - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan besides India - to express their concerns collectively and effectively, an Indian official told IANS.
The next global climate talks after Copenhagen in September last are likely to be held in Cancun in Mexico in December.
The Thimphu summit also marks the silver jubilee celebration of SAARC that was formed in Bangladesh in December 1985 with the aim of eradicating poverty and improving the living standard of 1.5 billion people of the region through mutual cooperation.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna hoped that the dialogue on climate change would be carried in a "meaningful manner" at the summit.
A pact on climate will help in exchanging practices and knowledge, capacity building and transfer of eco-friendly technology in areas like coastal zone management, wildlife conservation and environmental impact assessment studies.
The eight nations are also expected to sign an agreement to promote trade cooperation among the member countries. The pact will enhance collaboration in services like health, hospitality, communications, information technology and air traffic and enable the realisation of the region?s immense potential in these services.
Another highlight of the summit is the inauguration of the Permanent Secretariat of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) with initial capital of $ 300 million to support socio-economic projects in the region.
Ahead of leaving for Thimphu, Dr. Singh asked SAARC to see how it can play its rightful role in the changing world.
"The winds of change are blowing across the world. South Asia cannot be immune to the trend of greater integration, both at the regional and global levels," he said.