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FS to visit Bhutan tomorrow

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New Delhi, Apr 17 (UNI) Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran will visit Bhutan tomorrow for talks with King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and other senior members of the Royal Government.

''The visit is part of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and they serve to further strengthen and consolidate the relationship in all areas,'' an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.

Asked whether the Foreign Secretary would also visit Nepal, the spokesman said ''as of now the Foreign Secretary has no such plans.'' The Foreign Secretary also visited Dhaka to attend the Fifth Special Session of the Standing Committee on April 11 to review the SAARC processes in its entirety.

During the Thirteenth SAARC Summit in November 2005, it was felt that a comprehensive review and reform of all SAARC institutions and mechanisms including the Secretariat and the Regional Centres should be undertaken.

The Fifth Special Session of the Standing Committee also considered several other important issues including modalities for admitting Afghanistan as the new member of SAARC, guidelines for Observers in SAARC, a Draft Vision Document that will be adopted at the Fourteenth SAARC Summit in New Delhi and the Terms of Reference for SAARC's Observer status at the United Nations.

The meeting took substantive decisions that would facilitate focussing SAARC activities towards result-oriented and concrete actions, regional initiatives and projects.

Some of the more important ones would be implemented during the Fourteenth SAARC Summit to be hosted by India in 2007.

China and Japan will be invited as Observers to this Summit.

The Standing Committee also considered the requests received from the Republic of Korea and the United States seeking Observer status with SAARC and recommended that the requests be approved.

The modalities for Afghanistan's participation as the new SAARC member were finalised. Afghanistan would be invited to attend the 27th Session of the Council of Ministers and preceding meetings as a Special Invitee with a view to familiarising themselves with the SAARC process before the Fourteenth Summit, when they will sign a Joint Declaration formalising their entry into SAARC.

The Meeting also discussed the draft Vision Document for the third decade of SAARC. This draft would be subject to further review by appropriate SAARC bodies before the Fourteenth Summit.

UNI RB SB RAI2037

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