Today's Paper

Food crisis, fuel price hike to figure at SAARC Summit

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Member nations to sign accord for launch of SDF



Heads of state likely to hold bilateral meetings

To sign pact for Afghanistan’s entry into SAFTA



COLOMBO: The process for the SAARC Summit, scheduled here on August 2 and 3 was set in motion on Sunday with the meeting of the programming committee consisting of senior officials from the member countries.

The objective of the two-day meeting is to take stock of the nitty-gritty of arrangements for the Summit. It will be followed by a two-day meeting of the Foreign Secretaries to draw up the agenda for the Summit.

Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon is scheduled to arrive here on Monday to take part in the meeting of the Standing Committee on July 29 and 30. The agenda for the Summit drawn up by the Foreign Secretaries would be finalised by the Foreign Ministers in their meeting on July 31 and August 1. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to reach here on the night of July 30.

‘Partnership for our people’ is the theme of the 15th Summit to be inaugurated by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on August 2.The heads of state of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan will attend the Summit.

China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mauritius and the United States of America will participate as Observers. The representations from Australia and Myanmar for observer status in the SAARC would be considered at the Summit.

Four agreements are expected to be signed . These are an agreement for launch of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) with a corpus of $ 307 million, a treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance, an Agreement on the establishment of the South Asia Regional Standards Organisation and a pact for formal entry of Afghanistan into the South Asia Free Trade Agreement .

Tight security

The Summit is being held amid unprecedented security measures in view of the ongoing war between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE in the north.

The Tigers have announced a unilateral cease fire from July 26 to August 4. However, the government decided not to reciprocate on the plea that it was a ruse by militarily weakened Tigers to gain a breather in the battle front and also score brownie points vis-À-vis the international community.

The two-day SAARC Summit, with a retreat on the second day envisaged at Parliament House on the outskirts of the national capital, would also provide an opportunity to the heads of the state for bilateral meetings on the sidelines with their counterparts.

A fund to manage food crisis, an approach towards SAARC common currency and mechanisms to augment resources in the regional to tackle the situation arising out of the fuel price hike are among the others issues which would come up for consideration at the SAARC Summit.

Other proposals

The SDF is a culmination of debate within the organisation for several years. Among others SAARC has been considering proposals like Poverty Alleviation Fund, Infrastructure Fund, South Asian Development Bank, Media Development Fund, and Voluntary Fund for the Differently Able Persons, in addition to the SADF.

The Thirteenth SAARC Summit at Dhaka in 2005 decided to reconstitute the South Asia Development Fund into SDF to serve as the umbrella financial institution for all SAARC projects and programmes.

The leaders directed the Finance Ministers to look into the operational modalities of the Fund. The Second Meeting of the Financial Experts recommended an initial corpus of $300 million for the ‘Social Window.’

Poverty alleviation

The Social Window would primarily focus poverty alleviation and social development projects. The Infrastructure Window would cover projects in energy, power, transportation, telecommunications, environment, tourism and other infrastructure areas. The Economic Window would primarily be devoted to non-infrastructural funding.

Regional cooperation

The South Asia Standards Agreement is expected to enhance the level of India’s economic engagements with the SAARC countries by envisaging regional cooperation on standards, quality control and legal metrology amongst SAARC countries. The Agreement would also promote trade besides development of quality infrastructure in the region.

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