Fourteenth SAARC Summit process begins Mar 30

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New Delhi, Mar 29: The process for the April 3-4 14th SAARC Summit will be set in motion tomorrow with the 29th Session of the Programming Committee meeting to discuss the programme of the two-day Summit.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met SAARC editors here this morning and held discussions on the two-day mega event.

The Summit, being held in India for the third time, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 3.

It will focus on the theme of connectivity, economic, political, social and infrastructural.

The Summit which will have EU, US, China, Japan and Republic of Korea as Observers for the first time, will also discuss the issue of terrorism at Sri Lanka's request.

Following Monday's LTTE air attack on a Sri Lankan air base, Colombo had requested that the issue of terrorism also be discussed.

The last time India held a SAARC Summit was in 1995 in Delhi. Before that, India had held the 1986 Summit in Bangalore.

''We see this as a Summit which enables the subcontinent to reconnect to itself and to the rest of the world. I think the most evident symbol of this is that Afghanistan will be joining SAARC formally as a member at the Fourteenth Summit, which is a cause of some happiness for us. Equally, it will be the first Summit when there will be Observers present at the Summit,'' Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.

Foreign Secretaries of the member countries will meet on March 31 for the 33rd Session of the Standing Committee.

On April 2, Foreign Ministers of the SAARC countries will meet as a prelude to the two-day Summit.

The SAARC car rally will be flagged off on April 3, prior to the Inauguration of the Summit at Vigyan Bhavan, the venue of the Summit. Leaders of the SAARC member countries will deliberate for two days on April 3-4 discussing various issues. Afghanistan will officially join the Summit as the eighth member of the grouping.

Heads of State/Government of the member countries will also call on President A P J Abdul Kalam on April 3.

A painting exhibition of painters from SAARC countries will also be held on April 3.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will host a banquet for the visiting dignitaries on April 3.

The closing ceremony will be held on April 4 to be followed by a press conference.

The other proposals which the Summit and the other meetings will be looking at include the SAARC Development Fund. India had committed a hundred million dollars to poverty eradication projects in other countries, none of it to be spent in India but to be spent in the other SAARC countries.

There was the broader idea of a SAARC Development Fund, to which the other members would contribute.

At the 13th Summit in Dhaka, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given several proposals. These include establishment of SAARC Disaster Management Centre established in New Delhi in October 2006, A South Asian University, Regional Tele-medicine Network likely to begin soon, Regional Food Bank which would have food available for emergency supplies so that one does not have to start from zero should there be a disaster.


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