“Established in 1985, SAARC is a people-centric organization aimed at promoting welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improving their quality of life through accelerated economic growth and social progress,” H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), said. He made these remarks while addressing the Round-Table on Asian Regional Cooperation Organizations in Boao, Hainan Province of China, on 28 March 2019.
The Secretary General said that the institution of a number of legal instruments in diverse fields demonstrates the political will of the Member States to promote regional cooperation, including economic integration. “With nearly a quarter of the global population and abundant natural resources, South Asia has a vast potential for economic integration. Therefore, as envisioned by the SAARC leaders, our ultimate goal is to create South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.”
The Secretary General briefed the participants about the SAARC Social Charter, which identifies a number of targets to be achieved in a number of areas. “Poverty Alleviation has been declared as the over-arching goal of SAARC. Having observed 2006-2015 as the SAARC Decade on Poverty Alleviation, a Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation is being pursued vigorously to reduce the incidence of poverty across the region,” the Secretary General said.
“Improved intra-regional connectivity is the sine qua non for effective regional integration. SAARC’s quest for strengthening connectivity is manifest in the declaration of 2010-2020, as the ‘SAARC Decade of Intraregional Connectivity’,” the Secretary General said. “Endowed with vast hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel resources, South Asia offers tremendous potential for regional cooperation in energy generation, transmission and trade.”
In his address, the Secretary General touched upon the regional initiatives aimed at, among others, promoting people-to-people contacts; ensuring food and nutrition security for the region; bringing women into the mainstream of development; and making South Asia an attractive common tourist destination. He also spoke about SAARC’s engagement with regional and international organizations, including its Observers.
Organized by China Institute of International Studies, a think tank of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the Round-Table was devoted to the theme, Opportunities and Challenges of Asian Regional Cooperation and was attended by Heads of Regional Organizations in Asia, including ASEAN-China Centre (ACC); Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD); Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS); and Asian Financial Cooperation Association (AFCA).
Moderated by Ambassador Qi Zhenhong, President of China Institute of International Studies, the Round-Table was a component of Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2019 convened under the auspices of Boao Forum for Asia.