On the auspicious occasion of the Twenty-eighth Charter Day of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), I am pleased to extend my warm felicitations to the people and Governments of our Member States.
Founded in December 1985, SAARC is the manifestation of the collective will of our Member States to promote regional cooperation and integration in order to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life.
Although SAARC commenced with a few areas of regional cooperation at its inception, the ambit of engagement among its members continued to grow by every passing year. Indeed, SAARC today stands to cater to many diverse areas of regional cooperation, with the establishment of a number of inter-governmental mechanisms and institutions. More than anything else, SAARC has continued to serve as a common platform to address the common issues facing our region, thereby building mutual trust and confidence among one another. In addition, through its diverse activities over the past twenty-seven years, SAARC has been able to forge a distinct South Asian identity and a culture of peace, cooperation and partnership for the collective benefit of our people.
Devoted to the theme, Building Bridges, the Seventeenth Summit held in Addu City, Maldives, in November 2011, provided the renewed vigor and dynamism to the agenda of cooperation being pursued by the Association, particularly in the crucial area of intra-regional connectivity. Acting upon the directive of the Seventeenth Summit, an inter-Governmental mechanism is currently engaged with the preparatory work to launch the Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service involving India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. In the meanwhile, Member States are vigorously pursuing the finalization of the Regional Railways Agreement and the Motor Vehicles Agreement. Furthermore, SAARC is also contemplating conducting a demonstration run of a container train among Bangladesh, India and Nepal. With the coming into fruition of these important initiatives, I am confident that intra-regional trade will grow substantially, paving the way for the South Asian Economic Union, as envisioned by our Leaders at their successive Summits.
As we mark the Twenty-eighth Charter Day today, all of us must be proud of the significant achievements SAARC has made over the years. The South Asian Free Trade Arrangement (SAFTA), the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) and the South Asian University (SAU) are some of the notable achievements that deserve particular mention here. This is also a befitting occasion for all our countries to reaffirm their commitment to the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter for the common good of the peoples that SAARC represents.