World / Asia-Pacific

A-Z: SAARC and its 18th Summit

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-11-24 10:53

KATHMANDU - After two years' postponement, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will see its 18th summit in Nepal's capital Kathmandu on Nov 26 and 27. The following is a list of 26 key words to help people understand this organization and its summit:



Born in 1985 in Bangladesh, the SAARC is a regional association of eight South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined SAARC as its eighth member state in 2007.



South Asian nations agreed to establish a SAARC Development Bank during the eighth meeting of the South Asia Free Trade Area Ministerial Council held in July in Thimphu, Bhutan. India floated the proposal of the bank.



Two summits in the past - the 14th in New Delhi and the 17th in Male - had CONNECTIVITY as their central theme. Lack of connectivity partly has caused intra-SAARC trade at an insignificant 5 percent of its total trade.



The summit is preceded by several dialogues including the 49th session of the Programming Committee, the 41st session of the Standing Committee and the 46th session of the Programming Committee. This summit has also arranged many informal and open meetings as sideline talks to facilitate dialogues and discussions on subjects that can't be proposed institutionally.



Accelerating economic growth is a charter objective of SAARC. It is reported that the SAARC members account for less than 1 percent of the world trade. Good news is that the World Bank in a recent report said the region's economy is expected to expand by a real 6 percent in 2015 and by 6.4 percent in 2016 compared to 5.4 percent this year.


First Lady

Leaders' spouses will also attend the summit. Since, Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is a bachelor, his niece Sujata Koirala, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, will help him as the First Lady of Nepal.



According to a recent UNICEF report, four out of 10 children under the age of five have stunted growth due to chronic undernutrition in South Asia. At the same time, an estimated 28 percent children are born underweight, largely due to women's poor nutrition.



This is the third time Nepal hosts the regional summit, follow the 3rd and 11th summits in 1987 and 2002, respectively.



"Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity" is the theme for the 18th SAARC Summit. Since the early 1990s, several attempts have been initiated to boost South Asia's economic integration through a number of trade agreements at bilateral, sub-regional, and multilateral levels.


Joint Effort

The leaders of SAARC state members have pledged to make a joint strive to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia, home to 1.47 billion people, one-fifth of the world's population. SAARC Summit has become a joint forum connecting South Asia to the rest of the world.



By painting buildings, widening streets and installing about 1, 200 solar streetlights with the financial and technical support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and China, Kathmandu, the headquarters of the SAARC Secretariat, gets a facelift under the beautification movement.



Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India's rise depends on the support of its neighbors. Now, the whole world's eyes are on India, looking at the largest country with about 70 percent of population and about 80 percent of GDP in South Asia with curiosity: How can Modi take the lead in pulling together and animating the weak SAARC?



"To promote to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's problems" is one of the eight objectives of SAARC. But mutual suspicions and trust deficit are considered as the main factors hampering the development of SAARC. Bilateral and contentious issues, which, according to the SAARC Chart, shall be excluded from deliberations, always emerge in a dominant manner.


New Media

New media and social media have been popular amongst the younger generation of the SAARC nations. Among its 27 million population, about 2 million are Facebook users in Nepal, placing it the 66th position in the global ranking.



Currently, Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and the US are observers to SAARC. The economic and political organization now needs to redefine the nine observers' role and to expand in the future.



It is reported that four agreements related to railways, SAARC motor vehicles, the SAARC youth charter and energy cooperation will be signed during the 18th Summit.



Questions and skepticism are in the air. Some analysts are pessimistic that this summit might be the continuation of the previous ones.



At the summit, it will be a hot topic that how to tap enormous physical and human resources available in South Asia where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, making it one of the poorest regions of the world.



Experts say it is high time for SAARC leaders to balance between national security and regional security which concerns terrorism, cross border crimes, cyber crime, climate change, natural disasters, among others.



While admitting the survival of 29 years is the most important achievement of SAARC, how to transform this regional forum from a talking shop to a vibrant and powerful body calls for great wisdom which is beyond Indo-centric nature, mutual suspicion, intra-state and inter-state conflicts in this region.



SAARC is a cluster of poor nations. Four members -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are classified as Least Developed Countries. The problems of unemployment and brain drain have remained a perennial challenge in South Asia.



Rastriya Sabha Griha (City Hall) is the main venue for the two- day summit. The City Hall, with a sitting capacity of 676 persons, the first public edifice for indoor functions in Kathmandu, was constructed and funded by China 43 years ago.



South Asia was a war-torn region in the past. Till now, periodic conflicts between India and Pakistan, the two largest members of SAARC, still exist. The long-standing tension between the two countries is considered to be one of the top obstacles factors hampering the growth of SAARC.


Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping will not come to Nepal to participate in this summit because China is just an observer. But Nepalese people are impatient at the thought of a future visit. Many believe that the leader will most probably pay a visit to Nepal in 2015 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Nepal.


Year of SAARC

Several years have been designated as the Year of SAARC. For example, 2006 was designated as the South Asia Tourism Year. This time a proposal for making 2015 as the Year of Ending Violence against Women has been brought out, according to Nepal's foreign ministry.


Zero Tariff

SAARC leaders hope that there will be no tariff between the SAARC member states some day. If that comes true, people may pay the same price to buy a gadget in Nepal's Kathmandu and in Male of the Maldives.

Trudeau visits Sina Weibo
May gets little gasp as EU extends deadline for sufficient progress in Brexit talks
Ethiopian FM urges strengthened Ethiopia-China ties
Yemen's ex-president Saleh, relatives killed by Houthis
Most Popular
Hot Topics