58th session of SAARC Programming Committee kicks off virtually


The 58th session of the Programming Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation commenced virtually today.

Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal, who is also chairman of the SAARC Standing Committee, addressed the inaugural session of the Programming Committee.

In his address, the foreign secretary highlighted the importance of the Programming Committee’s sessions in taking forward the SAARC process.

Recognising SAARC as the collective aspiration of the people of the South Asia region for peace and prosperity through regional cooperation, he said SAARC had taken some important steps to promote regional integration through trade, finance, transport, power, connectivity as well as people-to-people contacts.

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 realise this potential.”

The foreign secretary underscored the need to forge early consensus for holding the stalled 19th 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 the SAARC. He also expressed Nepal’s readiness to play a constructive role to advance the SAARC process.

Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, secretary general of SAARC, also addressed the inaugural session. In his remarks, the secretary general conveyed condolences to the people and governments of the member states of SAARC over loss of life caused by the COV- ID-19 pandemic.

Presenting a synopsis of development 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 Covid and mitigate its after-effects in the region. He also stressed the need to ensure availability of affordable and effective vaccines to protect the health of people from this deadly virus.

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.

The Programming Committee last met at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu on 19 and 20 December 2019, read a press release issued by the secretariat.