Thimphu, (Bhutan), Apr 26 (ANI): Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Monday expressed confidence that the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit would open new areas of economic cooperation among member countries.
In a statement made soon after his arrival at Thimphu, Krishna said the summit would give member countries an opportunity to introspect on the past and chart a course for the future.
"An Agreement on Trade in Services will also be signed during the Summit, thereby opening up new vistas of economic cooperation among SAARC countries," Krishna said.
Bhutan has chosen 'Climate Change' as the theme of the summit.
He said as the Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration has been entitled 'Towards a Green and Happy South Asia,' foreign ministers of all member countries are likely to sign a charter on environment co-operation,
"The theme is expected to be reinforced by the signing of a SAARC Convention on Cooperation in Environment by the Foreign Ministers in the presence of the Heads of State and Governments of SAARC Member States," Krishna said.
He said that over the years, the SAARC has made visible strides and achieved many milestones.
"It has created the institutional and legal framework for regional cooperation through agreements and programmes covering almost every area of importance to the region, ranging from poverty alleviation and food security to terrorism and women's empowerment," Krishna said.
"Its focus on grassroots development is designed to cater to the welfare of the people of South Asia and to bring about an improvement "in their quality of life," he added.
Krishna said that with the depth of challenges facing the region, the transformation of SAARC within a quarter of a century to a dynamic vehicle of regional economic cooperation is indeed remarkable.
"The asymmetric and non-reciprocal participation by India has been an important factor in this process. This has inspired other SAARC member countries to take similar initiative on regional projects," Krishna said.
In his address, Krishna described the SAARC as a vehicle for regional development, and said the SAARC member countries have committed themselves to strengthening regional economic cooperation through the SAARC, particularly over the three years since the New Delhi Summit in April 2007.
"It is to the credit of the SAARC, that despite the global financial recession, trade under the SAFTA since its implementation in 2006 amounted to USD 689 million," Krishna said.
"Moreover, the basket of tradable items is also quite diverse from manufacturing to agriculture products. All Member States have also reiterated their resolve to facilitate greater trade liberalization measures and greater tariff reductions," he added. (ANI)