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Peace, prosperity main agendas for SAARC Summit

KATHMANDU, Nov 25

The 18th SAARC Summit is starting in Kathmandu from Wednesday. The majority of agendas of this summit, held at a time when the member states have come together for regional peace and prosperity leaving aside political differences, are also related to prosperity of the region. The summit will also stress on implementation of the past commitments. Prime Minister (PM) of host country Nepal, Sushil Koirala, will inaugurate the summit at 9:30 Wednesday morning.

Regional economic development, poverty alleviation, free trade, railway, transportation, food security, energy, rural development, and SAARC fund are the main agendas of the summit. Discussions will also be held on development of information and communication technology, increasing agricultural productivity, climate change, social development, management of natural disaster, health and population, and development of education against terrorism. “Conflict and terrorism are the major problems in all the SAARC countries. We have, therefore, prioritized peace and prosperity,” Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey says.
Agreements will be reached on revoking three regional centers and merging four others during the summit. The Regional SAARC Documentation Center in New Delhi, SAARC Human Resources Development Center in Islamabad and SAARC Information Center in Kathmandu will be dissolved while SAARC Coastal Zone Management Center (Maldives), SAARC Meteorological Research Center (Bangladesh), SAARC Forestry Center (Bhutan) and SAARC Disaster Management Center (India) will be merged to form SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Center. “The summit will take initiative for implementation of the past SAARC declarations. The number of member states has increased to eight from seven but there are only seven pigeons inside the pair of hands in the SAARC logo. Agreement will also be reached to make that eight,” minister Pandey adds. Agreement will also be reached for effective operation of SAARC Development Fund for economic and infrastructure development of the region, and expansion of the laboratory capacity of SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Center.

The 17th SAARC Summit held in Maldives had issued the declaration to ease customs processes in the region, remove the sensitive list, connect road and railway network in the region, operate regional and sub-regional projects, boost trade and investment in the region among others. This is the third time that Nepal has been hosting the SAARC Summit. She first hosted it in 1987 during Panchayat Regime. There was constitutional monarchy when she hosted it for the second time in 2002 while the country now has become a republic. “The SAARC Summit has been held in Nepal only after change. It will be special as it has happened after the country became a republic,” minister Pandey opines.
Schedule of 18th SAARC Summit

PM Koirala will inaugurate the summit after SAARC Chairman and Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declares the summit open, according to the Foreign Ministry. The schedule for discussion will be approved after that while Yameen will immediately propose Koirala to chair SAARC. Koirala will express gratitude and start inaugural address after the proposal is endorsed. Koirala will then invite Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay and Indian PM Narendra Modi in the order to address the summit. Representatives from observer states Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, America and the European Union (EU) will also address the summit.
Three head of states and five government heads will participate in the summit. They all reached Kathmandu on Tuesday. Lankan President Rajapaksa was the first to land followed by Afghan President Ahmadzai, Bhutanese PM Tobgay, and Maldivian President Yameen. Indian PM Modi, Pakistani PM Sharif and Bangladeshi PM Hasina Wazed arrived after that. This is the first summit for Afghan and Maldivian presidents.
Deputy PM duo Bam Dev Gautam and Prakash Man Singh, Tourism Minister Deepak Chandra Amatya, Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel and others welcomed the guests at the Tribhuavn International Airport (TIA). They were all taken to Soaltee Crowne Plaza from the airport. They all will attend the dinner banquet hosted by PM Koirala Wednesday evening. They will be taken to Dhulikhel on Thursday for retreat. They will return back to Kathmandu after spending some time at Dhulikhel and take part in the closing session. They will then attend the dinner hosted by President Dr Ram Baran Yadav Thursday. They will return back on Thursday and Friday.

The summit will conclude on Thursday issuing SAARC declaration. Meeting of the joint secretary level programming committee was held on Saturday, secretary level standing committee on Monday and foreign ministers on Tuesday before the summit.

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