Bharat Raj Paudyal, Foreign Secretary of Nepal and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, underscored the need to forge early consensus for holding the stalled Nineteenth SAARC Summit and its preceding meetings.
Stating that regional cooperation is one of the priorities of Nepal’s foreign policy, he expressed the unwavering faith of the Government of Nepal in the ideals, principles and objectives of SAARC. He also expressed Nepal’s readiness to play a constructive role to advance the SAARC process.
Addressed the Inaugural Session of the Fifty-eighth Session of the Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced in virtual mode, this morning, foreign secretary highlighted the importance of the Programming Committee’s Sessions in taking forward the SAARC process.
Recognizing SAARC as the collective aspiration of the people of South Asia for peace and prosperity through regional cooperation, he said that the Association had taken some important steps for promoting regional integration through trade, finance, transport, power, connectivity as well as people-to-people contacts.
Secretary Paudyal said, “Blessed with abundant natural and human resources, South Asia holds a high potential for development and prosperity. Enhanced regional cooperation and deeper economic integration is a must to realize this potential
Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary-General of SAARC, also addressed the Inaugural Session. In his remarks, the Secretary-General of SAARC thanked the Foreign Secretary of Nepal and Chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, for his presence in the Inaugural Session. He conveyed condolences to the people and Governments of the Member States of SAARC over the loss of life caused by the pandemic.
Presenting a synopsis of developments in regional cooperation since the last Session of the Programming Committee, he referred to the high-level meetings of the SAARC Leaders and Health Ministers during the ongoing pandemic as well as other Ministerial Meetings on Education and Planning. He highlighted the need to strengthen regional cooperation to contain the further spread of the Coronavirus and mitigate its after-effects in the region. He also stressed the need to ensure the availability of affordable and effective vaccines to protect the health of the people from this deadly virus.
Bharat Kumar Regmi, Joint Secretary (Regional Organization Division), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, chaired the Meeting. In his opening remarks, Regmi welcomed the delegates to the Meeting. He appreciated the excellent documentation and technical arrangements made by the SAARC Secretariat in facilitating the Meeting.
The Programming Committee is a Charter Body of SAARC, 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.
Convening at the tail-end of the year, the one-day Session of the Programming Committee is expected to review the current status of regional cooperation in the identified areas since its last Session. The Committee is also expected to finalize the budgets and Calendars of Activities of the SAARC Secretariat, Specialized Bodies and Regional Centres for 2021.
The Programming Committee last met at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 19-20 December 2019.