Press Release

Rt. Hon’ble Mr. K P Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal and Chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), paid a visit to the SAARC Headquarters in Thamel, Kathmandu, this morning. He was accompanied by the First Lady of Nepal.


Other members of his entourage included the Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chair of the SAARC Council of Ministers; H. E. the Foreign Secretary and the Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee; Press Adviser to the Prime Minister; and Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the SAARC Programming Committee.


In his address, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister expressed happiness to visit the SAARC Headquarters for the first time as Prime Minister and Chair of SAARC. He also expressed pleasure to host the SAARC Secretariat and SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre. “Neighbourhood relations and regional cooperation are one of the priorities of our foreign policy. As a founding member and current Chair of SAARC, Nepal strongly believes in regional cooperation in order to promote collective well-being of the people of South Asia,” the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister said.


“SAARC is an expression of our regional solidarity in South Asia. It has become a common identity for the people of this region,” the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister said. “It represents hope of over 1.7 billion people for this region for accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development.” Stating that the Nineteenth SAARC Summit was long overdue, he said, “We are eagerly looking forward to hand over the Chairmanship. I hope the SAARC Member States will come up with consensus to convene the Nineteenth SAARC Summit at an early date.”


The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister appreciated the Secretary General and his team for facilitating regional cooperation within the SAARC framework and for making meticulous arrangements for receiving him at the Secretariat.


To mark his visit to the Secretariat, the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister planted a Rudraksya (UTRASUM BEAD TREE) sapling in its premises. After planting the sapling, he said, “May the Rudrakshya sapling that I planted here at the Secretariat grow to inspire the Governments of South Asia to strengthen the SAARC process for delivering peace, development, prosperity and the greater good of the people of South Asia.”


Earlier, while welcoming the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, the Secretary General of SAARC said, “We are greatly honoured by the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister’s momentous visit to the SAARC Secretariat today. I am particularly happy that this is the third such visit of a SAARC Head of State or Government during the last two years. Moreover, this is a unique and historic occasion, which brings together the distinguished Chairs of four Charter Bodies of SAARC to the Secretariat at the same time.”

The Secretary General stated that as a founding member of SAARC, Nepal had been playing a very constructive role in its evolution since inception. “The three milestone SAARC Summits hosted and several important initiatives spearheaded by Nepal have contributed enormously toward the SAARC process,” he said. He thanked the Government of Nepal for hosting the SAARC Secretariat and SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre.

The Secretary General stated that the convening of meetings of the Charter Bodies of SAARC, including the Summit, provides renewed impetus to the SAARC process. He said, “In this context, we greatly value endeavours of the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Chair of SAARC for convening of the Nineteenth Summit in Islamabad.”

Since its establishment in Kathmandu on 16 January 1987, several SAARC Heads of State and Government have visited the Secretariat. In 2018, the former President of Sri Lanka and the former Prime Minister of Pakistan visited the SAARC Secretariat during their bilateral visits to Nepal.


The Fifty-seventh Session of the Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced today at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.

 

Comprising Heads of SAARC Divisions (Joint Secretary/Director General) from the Ministries of Foreign/External Affairs or National Focal Points of the Member States of SAARC, the Programming Committee is a Charter Body of SAARC.

 

H. E. Mr. Shanker Das Bairagi, Foreign Secretary of Nepal, and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, graced the Inaugural Session of the Programming Committee’s Fifty-seventh Session with his august presence.

 

In his Address, H. E. the Foreign Secretary said, “SAARC has become a well networked, a widely recognized and an established regional body in its 35 years of operation.” While highlighting the importance of SAARC for promoting the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and the need to further reinvigorate it to address challenges, while reaping benefits from opportunities, he said that the cost of non-cooperation was enormous and that regional cooperation in South Asia was not a choice, but a compulsion. He said, “Regional Cooperation is one of the priorities of Nepal’s Foreign Policy. As a founding member and current Chair, Nepal’s commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC is unflinching.” He expressed the hope that the Member States will arrive at a consensus to convene the Nineteenth SAARC Summit at an early date. Similarly, other SAARC activities should be held regularly, he added. He also appreciated the leadership provided by the current Secretary General of SAARC in carrying forward the SAARC process as well as in running the Secretariat efficiently.

 

Addressing the Inaugural Session, H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of SAARC, briefly reviewed the progress made by SAARC during 2019. “Drawing satisfaction from the progress we have made during the year, we should continue to work strenuously to achieve the coveted objectives enshrined in the Charter, as well as the goal of the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU), as envisioned by our leaders,” he said. He further said, “The raison d’etre for creation of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated social progress and economic development. In order to carry forward this people-centric objective, it is of utmost importance to regularly convene the meetings of the Charter bodies at all levels.” Stating that Summits provide renewed impetus to the SAARC process, he expressed the hope that a consensus will be evolved soon among the Member States to convene the Nineteenth SAARC Summit at Islamabad.

 

Convened under the Chairmanship of Mr. Ram Prasad Subedi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, the Committee is to review progress of regional cooperation in a number of priority areas of the SAARC process. Besides considering the SAARC Calendar of Activities for 2020, the Committee will review matters relating to the SAARC Secretariat, Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres, including their budgets and Calendars of Activities for 2020. The two-day Session of the Programming Committee also brings together the Heads of SAARC Specialized Bodies and SAARC Regional Centres.

 

The Programming Committee last met at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 11-12 December 2018.

 

Kathmandu, 19 December 2019


To commemorate the signing of the SAARC Charter on 08 December 1985, the Thirty-fifth Charter Day of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was celebrated in all Member States of SAARC.

 

The Heads of State/Government/Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States of SAARC issued special messages to commemorate the SAARC Charter Day.

 

H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) hosted a Reception this evening to mark the SAARC Charter Day.

 

The Rt. Hon. Vice President of Nepal graced the Reception with his august presence as the Chief Guest.

 

Several high-ranking officials of the Government of Nepal, Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Regional and International Organizations in Kathmandu as well as friends of SAARC attended the function. A large number of media personnel were also present on the occasion.

 

In his Address, the Secretary General greeted the people and the Governments of the Member States of SAARC on the auspicious occasion of the Thirty-fifth SAARC Charter Day.

 

The Secretary General said that SAARC was created to promote welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improve their quality of life. He added that since its inception in December 1985, SAARC had made steady progress in promoting regional collaboration in priority areas. “We should continue to work strenuously to achieve the coveted objectives enshrined in the Charter, as well as the goal of the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU), as envisioned by our leaders,” he said.

 

He emphasized that improved intra-regional connectivity is sine qua non for effective regional integration, including for promoting economic relations, people-to-people contacts and tourism. “In this context, we sincerely hope that the three important agreements for improving intra-regional connectivity will be finalized soon,” he said.

 

He said that SAARC progressed steadily during 2019, adding that five ministerial meetings were convened, besides many other SAARC activities. He stated that the year also witnessed the operationalization of the Economic and Infrastructure Windows of the SAARC Development Fund, in addition to the Social Window, which has been operational since 2010. During the year, SAARC’s Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres also remained very active in pursuance of their mandates, he said. Besides, SAARC’s collaboration with regional and international organizations progressed well. “We are also working on substantive project-based collaboration with observers of SAARC,” the Secretary General said.

 

Since this was his last Charter Day Reception that he hosted in Kathmandu, he thanked the Member States for their continued support and cooperation in the discharge of my responsibilities. He also thanked the esteemed Government of Nepal, as the current Chair of SAARC and host of the SAARC Secretariat, for its valuable support to the SAARC process and the Secretariat.

 

In the reception, a cultural troupe presented glimpses of music of the Member States of SAARC.

 

Kathmandu, 09 December 2019


H. E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), addressed the Fourteenth Informal Meeting of the SAARC Finance Ministers in Washington, on 17 October 2019.

 

In his address, the Secretary General thanked the World Bank for facilitating holding of this Informal Meeting of SAARC Finance Ministers. This is the first Informal Meeting being held on the sidelines of an Annual Meeting of the World Bank.

 

The Secretary General said that SAARC looks forward to strengthening cooperation and partnership with the World Bank for achieving the goals of poverty reduction, enhancing economic cooperation and regional integration, trade facilitation, improving financial accountability, and capacity building, in conformity with the MoU signed between the two organizations in 2006.

 

He said that the primary objective of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated economic growth in the region. Improvement in economic relations among the Member States is the key to accelerated economic growth for improving standards of living of peoples.

 

He said that the theme of this Meeting bears considerable significance in view of the increasing emphasis being given to regional economic integration. This is one dimension of the visionary goal set by our leaders for achieving the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through creation of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.

 

He said trade facilitation has been recognized as an important tool for higher economic growth and reducing poverty in developing countries. Studies have shown that there are several bottlenecks that cause considerable trade delays and high transaction costs in South Asia. Better trade facilitation will promote trade and economic development in South Asia. The emphasis on trade facilitation, is thus timely and appropriate, especially in view of its significant positive impact on economic development.

 

He said that for deeper regional economic integration and promotion of intra-SAARC trade, it is necessary to work collectively to bring down tariffs; eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and para-tariff barriers (PTBs); reduce sensitive lists under SAFTA; enhance energy cooperation; implement SATIS; improve regional connectivity by rail, road, air and maritime; introduce measures for visa facilitation; finalize the SAARC Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments; widen the scope of the SAARC Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters; and harmonize customs procedures and documentation to facilitate movement of goods and services across the region.

 

Kathmandu, 18 October 2019