Thimphu: Leaders of the 8-nation SAARC
are set to operationalise a development fund for the region
for extending financial support to various socially relevant
programmes and are also expected to double the reserves in
their food bank when they meet here on Wednesday.
"We have completed the legal requirements for the
SAARC Development Fund. The member nations have sent in their
ratifications. The SDF will be operationalised at the start of
the Summit," Bhutan`s Foreign Secretary Daw Penjo told
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of other
member countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal -- will attend the two-
day summit on April 28 and 29.
Penjo said the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), with a
paid up capital of USD 300 million, will also provide
financial assistance to projects on women empowerment,
maternal and child health and teachers` training under the
social window of the SDF.
India has contributed USD 189 million for the fund
which would be used for social and some other sectors in the
member countries. Other member countries also would be
contributing for it in various amounts.
The Foreign Secretaries of the member states met in
this picturesque Bhutanese capital amid a light drizzle to
finalise the agenda for the ministerial meeting tomorrow.
Penjo said that the leaders of the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) issue the Silver
Jubilee Thimphu Declaration that will reflect on the past
achievements and chart a course for the future to make
SAARC a robust body.
Climate change will be the theme of the 16th SAARC
Summit and the leaders will also issue a joint statement on
the urgency to tackle climate change as the SAARC region is
one of the areas most vulnerable to the effects of global
warming, Penjo said.
Arriving here for the summit, External Affairs
Minister S M Krishna pitched for introspection of the past by
the eight-nation grouping and chart a course for the future.
"The Summit will give Member States an opportunity to
introspect on the past and chart a course for the future," he
He said an Agreement on Trade in Services would also
be signed during the Summit, thereby opening up new vistas of
economic cooperation among SAARC countries.
"As we head for the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu, we
are imbued with a sense of confidence and optimism in SAARC as
a vehicle for regional development," he said.