At a time when the rationale and the objective of SAARC Observer consortium is under discussion, two other nations – Russia and Turkey – have sought observer status at the SAARC session beginning next week in Male, the Maldives.
According to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat in Kathmandu, the 35th session of the association will begin Feb 20.
At the meet, the ministers of foreign/external affairs from member-states are to discuss issues related to maintaining relations with observers, granting observer status to Russia and Turkey, regional connectivity, approval of new SAARC secretary general from Nepal, and decision on cultural ties with China and South Korea.
A secretariat statement said: “The meeting of Council of Ministers would be preceded by Fortieth Session of the Standing Committee, 6th Special Session of the Standing Committee and Forty-fifth Session of the Programming Committee during 17-19 Feb, 2014. All Member States will participate in these meetings.”
Diplomatic sources here said that member-states are in favour of moratorium on granting new observer status at a time when several questions are being raised on incumbent observer nations.
Turkey applied some two years back for observer status and Russia has sought it recently.
During a recent meeting with Bhutan’s Foreign Secretary Dasho Yeshey Dorji, SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem explicitly said that in keeping with the directive of the 17th SAARC Summit, the committee is expected to consider the entire gamut of issues vis-a-vis SAARC’s engagement with its observers.
The US, China, Iran, South Korea, European Union, Australia, Japan, Mauritius and Myanmar are observer countries in the SAARC.
The talks will also be held on a comprehensive study on strengthening the grouping’s mechanisms, including the secretariat, regional centres and specialised bodies. The study was conducted by the secretariat for the first time in its history.
This time Nepal will propose fresh dates for 18th SAARC Summit — to be held any time in 2014 — and also approval for Arjun Bahadur Thapa, the country’s outgoing foreign secretary, as the new SAARC secretary general.
The incumbent SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem, from the Maldives, is retiring next month.
According to the Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Biragi, Nepal would propose some dates around end of November for the 18th summit.
Among other issues, connectivity among the member-states by various means, launch of a ferry service between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and a trial run of a container train between India, Nepal and Bangladesh are also listed in the agenda.