Recalling the recent spate of terrorist bombings in the South Asian region they reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed that the SAARC stands united in its resolve to eradicate this scourge which has afflicted all Member States.
In accordance with established practice the SAARC Council of Ministers met in an Informal Session on 29th September 2008, on the fringes of the 63rd Session of the UNGA. This meeting was chaired by Rohitha Bogollagama, Chairman of the SAARC Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka. The meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers H.E. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury of Bangladesh, Hon. Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering of Bhutan, H.E. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee of India, Hon. Upendra Yadav of Nepal and H.E. Mr. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan and H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Hussain Monik, Ambassador of Maldives to the US and Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.
The Chairman of the Council thanked the Ministers and other representatives for their participation and also appreciated their extensive contribution through a vibrant discussion which covered a wide range of issues. He remarked that there was an increasing spirit of cooperation which was visible. He also observed there being a spirit of cordiality demonstrated in addressing the issues. The Chairman of the Council pledged that Sri Lanka will do its utmost in fulfilling the accorded mandate. The Council expressed their unstinted support to the Chair.
The meeting reviewed the progress since the 15th SAARC Summit held in Colombo in August 2008. In this context the Ministers reached the following conclusions:
• Recalling the recent spate of terrorist bombings in the South Asian region they reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed that the SAARC stands united in its resolve to eradicate this scourge which has afflicted all Member States.
• Recognizing that a number of Agreements had been signed, the need for their ratification at the earliest by Member States was underscored, in order to enhance regional cooperation.
• Considering that there are approximately 60 meetings with 14 at Ministerial level, to be convened within the current Chairmanship, the need for their timely scheduling and ensuring non postponement was recognized.
• Acknowledging the projects undertaken by SAARC Observers, the imperative need to adhere to the guidelines adopted at the last Summit with regard to new proposals for cooperation was underlined. Further it was outlined that the details of the proposal needed to be submitted to the SAARC Secretariat which would seek approval through the Standing Committee.
• Realizing the decline in the global production of food which could culminate in a crisis, in order for the South Asian Region to be prepared to respond, the convening of the SAARC Food Bank Board in October 2008 in Sri Lanka was welcomed. The need for the effective operationalization of the Food Bank at the earliest was agreed.
• Bearing in mind the far reaching consequences of climate change, it was reaffirmed that the Dhaka Declaration on Climate Change should be fully implemented, as it is the regional commitment to circumvent its negative impact.
• Welcoming the steps taken in establishing the SAARC University in New Delhi, Member States were urged to ratify the related Agreement in order that this institution would be functional as envisaged by 2010.
• Identifying connectivity as a key to further strengthening intra regional geographical links, the finalization on the corridors to be implemented which would be contained in the Agreements on Motor Vehicles and Rail Transport was referred to for early finalization, as it would enable land transport links from the West and South East of Asia through South Asia. In this regard it was noted that the Transport Ministers would meet in Sri Lanka in November 2009.
• Referring to the increasing demands on the SAARC Secretariat due to the expansion of the Association’s work programme, the Secretary General was requested to furnish a detailed proposal to strengthen the Secretariat.
The Chair of the SAARC Council of Ministers extended an invitation to his counterparts for the 31st Session of the Council to be held in Sri Lanka in February 2009, which will be preceded by the meetings of the Programming and Standing Committees. The Ministers while accepting this invitation expressed confidence that under Sri Lanka’s chairmanship SAARC would be further invigorated.