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SAARC officials firm up agenda for Nov 10-11 summit

Monday November 07, 2011 06:52:03 PM, IANS

New Delhi: Foreign secretaries and senior officials of eight SAARC countries met Monday at the Addu Atoll in the Maldives to firm up the agenda for the Nov 10-11 summit that is expected to result in pacts on setting up a regional seed bank and a rapid action force for natural disasters.

The two-day meeting of the standing committee of senior officials from South Asian countries is expected to forward its recommendations Tuesday to the SAARC foreign ministers, who will meet Wednesday to clear the agenda for the 17th summit that begins Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai represented India at the meeting of the officials held at the newly-constructed Equatorial Convention Centre at the Addu Atoll in the Maldives.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves Wednesday for the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit that focuses on the overarching theme of "Building Bridges".

The officials discussed the details of the four agreements that are expected to be signed at the summit.

Two custom and trade-related agreements will be signed. An agreement on a seed bank to boost agricultural productivity and another pact on setting up a rapid action force to deal with natural disasters like cyclone and quakes are expected to be signed.

The rapid action force mechanism entails quick deployment of assistance teams in emergency situations and post-disaster delivery of relief.

The summit is expected to culminate in a joint declaration Friday afternoon that will include new initiatives for greater intra-regional trade and connectivity.

The officials also discussed a slew of proposals firmed up by the South Asia Forum held in New Delhi recently that brought together the governments and civil society actors of South Asian countries to develop a new vision for the region in its next 25 years.

Ahead of the summit, India has emphasised on the need for the region to improve the infrastructure of connectivity and trade. "It also needs better people-to-people contact to entrench the habit of regional cooperation," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said here Saturday before he left for the Maldives for the meeting of SAARC officials.

The SAARC Programming Committee met Monday in the Maldives and is understood to have cleared a $2.7 million budget proposed by its members for the functioning of the SAARC Secretariat.






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