The 18th SAARC summit has concluded, with President Abdulla Yameen adding his signature to the Kathmandu Declaration.
A new regional Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation was also signed by all members of the association, aiming to facilitate cross-border trade of electricity on a voluntary basis.
The summit declaration was themed ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’ and focused on institutional reform of SAARC as well as the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States.
At the start of the summit earlier this week, President Yameen had called upon the association to make its voice heard in the international community, as well as criticising the group’s complacency on the subject of climate change.
“Importantly, the Declaration underscores the importance of the international community to conclude a legally binding outcome in the fight against climate change before the end of 2015,” read a foreign ministry statement accompanying the summit’s conclusion.
“The Leaders also agreed to develop capacity of Member States to apply space technology for socio-economic development and the welfare of the peoples through experience sharing and technology transfer and in this context welcomed the offer of India to develop and launch a SAARC satellite.”
Another notable features of the Kathmandu Declaration was the recognition of the “manifold contributions of ocean-based Blue Economy in the SAARC Region and the need for collaboration and partnership in this area.”
The declaration pledged commitment to a phased-in South Asian Economic Union via a free trade area, customs union, common markets, and economic and monetary union.
Leaders “reaffirmed that SIDS would require special attention in view of their unique circumstances and particular vulnerabilities in realization of sustainable development.”
The Maldives has recently been elected chair of the Alliance of Small Island States – the 44-member lobby group for such countries within the UN system, which focuses primarily on the effects of climate change.
The Kathmandu Declaration also urged relevant bodies to identify projects in the area of power generation to meet growing regional as well as “taking into account the existential threats posed by climate change to some SAARC Member States”.
The Maldives government is currently aiming to generate 30 percent of its power from renewable sources within five years. Local media yesterday reported that India had offered to assist the Maldives in its search for oil.
All leaders also “reiterated their strong commitment to ensure good governance for sustainable development by promoting accountability, transparency, the rule of law and people’s participation at all levels of governance,” read the declaration.
The summit is the first such meeting since the Maldives’ summit in 2011, having been organised after recently elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his regional counterparts to his inauguration in May.
President Yameen was able to meet separately with Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the summit before returning to the Maldives today.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon signed the energy agreement on behalf of the Maldives, committing to enable energy traders to negotiate the terms of exchange, and to share technical knowledge with a view to opening up the electricity sector.
Leaders also promised to sign further agreements on passenger and cargo traffic within three months, after Pakistan were reported to have declined signing the agreements until further internal discussions.
Observers of the 18th summit included Australia, China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar, the USA, and the EU.
Suggestions that the status of China be upgraded were rebuffed by Indian officials earlier this week, who suggested that greater integration between current states should be remain a priority.
Pakistan has offered to hold the next summit, mandated by the SAARC Charter to held at least once a year.
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