Dhaka Jakarta for Closer Asian Ties
Asian IT Ministers Summit
China and ASEAN Sign MoU
Asian Nations Intensify Cooperation to Fight Transnational Crimes
Twelfth SAARC Summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dhaka Jakarta for Closer Asian Ties

The Daily Star Online
January 25, 2004

Regional cooperation benefits one and all. Perhaps, understanding the importance of this, the focus of the bilateral talks recently held between the Bangladeshi and Indonesian leaders was on the creation of a greater regional forum. One, that could foster closer relations between the Asian economies, so as to especially fight the challenges posed by globalisation successfully.

The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri held summit level talks on January 24, 2004. As reported by the Daily Star (January 25, 2004), the two leaders agreed on the need for a larger forum comprising the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the ASEAN (Association for South-East Asian Nations) countries in this regard.

Under the framework of bilateral talks, the two leaders also discussed regional international issues of common concern, including enhancing trade and economic cooperation.

The need felt by smaller Asian economies of a greater regional forum is  important as it often provides them with powerful bargaining power (through their regional affiliation) in international negotiations which is often lacking under individual representation. Underlining its significance, the Indonesian president assured the prime minister of her country’s support for Bangladesh’s membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Megawati also expressed her hope to see Bangladesh’s representation in the next Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit which will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Afro-Asian Conference that led to the formation of the NAM.

On the issue of terrorism, acording to the Daily Star, the Indonesian President emphasised on sharing of information and intelligence among Asian countries for effectively combating the problem in the respective countries.

The talks concluded  with signing of MoUs on establishment of joint commission on trade and on comprehensive trade and economic partnership.

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Asian IT Ministers Summit

Press and Information Bureau Press Release
January 12, 2004

Information technology (ICT) ministers of over 40 countries met in Hyderabad on January 12-13, 2004 to discuss core issues such as bridging the digital divide and standardisation of economic development by way of exploiting information technology (IT) at the second Asian IT Ministers Summit.

A consensus emerged on issues such as regional approach to cooperation and sharing of best practices in IT in different Asian countries so as to bridge the digital gap within the region.

The IT ministers made presentations on their countries’ experience in using IT in e-governance, bridging the digital divide, education, computer literacy, information kiosks, village networking, rural upliftment, market penetration and other issues. Issues such as standardisation of IT development in Asia, digitisation of culture, construction of broadband network environment in the region, Internet affordability, financial solutions to the digital divide, policy changes were deliberated upon.

A roadmap for the sector includes joint research projects on recognising each other’s digital signatures if a crime is committed under the IT Act; collaboration on supercomputer facilities; showcasing e-governance projects and sharing experiences; describing the telemedicine standards and its facilities; and community information centres of different countries





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China and ASEAN Sign MoU

ASEAN Press Release 
January 11, 2003

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of non-traditional crime issues, pressing ahead their joint efforts in combating trans-national crime. The memorandum was signed at a ceremony on January 10 at the end of the one-day ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea ministerial meeting on combating trans-national crime held in Bangkok.

Under the memorandum, China and ASEAN would improve their joint efforts to combat non-traditional crimes through information sharing, personnel exchange and training and law-enforcement cooperation. The memorandum put China and ASEAN's ongoing cooperation program and workshop on combating non-traditional crimes into words and set down medium-and long-term goals for further cooperation in this field.


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Asian Nations Intensify Cooperation to Fight Transnational Crimes

ASEAN Press Release
January  8, 2004

The ASEAN Ministers overseeing the issues of transnational crime, gathered on 8th January 2004 in Bangkok, to discuss ways of combating transnational crime affecting the region and to enhance cooperation towards this end. The Ministers welcomed agreement to establish an ASEAN Security Community which among others envisage the utilization of the existing institutions and mechanisms within ASEAN for strengthening national and regional capacities to counter terrorism, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and other transnational crimes. The approach sought by the ministers was to take a comprehensive and coordinated approach in addressing the various areas of transnational crimes that have links to terrorism. The ministers also pushed for accelerating the implementation of the Work Programme to implement the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime. They also recognised the need for an effective legal cooperation to enhance the fight against transnational crime and acknowledged that the provision of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and extradition agreements can be a tool towards this. Finally, the ministers welcomed the extra-regional cooperation with the ASEAN Dialogue Partners in combating transnational crime and acknowledge the progress that has been made in this area. They also held talks with the ASEAN+3 ministers in the inaugural ASEAN Plus Three Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime on 10th January 2004.

The important issue with regard to transnational crime is that many countries define offenses differently, and what is illegal in one jurisdiction may be legal just across the border in another country. The ministers at this meeting aimed to coordinate their countries' laws to combat trans-national crime, including terrorism.

 

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Twelfth SAARC Summit

The Heads of Governments of the seven South Asian countries met for the Twelfth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Islamabad from January 4-6, 2004. The summit was hailed as one of the most successful in the history of SAARC as the leaders of the Twelfth SAARC summit adopted the Islamabad Declaration, the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Framework Treaty and the Additional Protocol to the Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.

SAFTA

The landmark South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement was a pledge to scale down tariffs in the region in two phases to 0-5 per- cent by January 1, 2006, which will be fully implemented by December 31, 2015.

The agreement, signed at the start of the concluding session of the three-day SAARC summit, seeks to allow free cross-border movement of goods within the region. The accord will be implemented through the following instruments: trade liberalization programme; rules of origin; institutional arrangements; consultations and dispute settlement procedures; safeguard measures and any other instrument that may be agreed. Under the trade liberaliza-tion programme, the member countries agreed that Non-Least Developed States - India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - will reduce their tariffs from their existing levels to 20 per-cent within a timeframe of two years from the date the agreement is coming into force. It was agreed that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) - Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives and Bhutan - will reduce their existing tariff rates to 30 per- cent within two years of the coming into force of the agreement.

Islamabad Declaration

A few important declarations that were signed as the part of the Islamabad text are as follows:

The leaders reiterated their commitment for the creation of a South Asian Economic Union and stressed on the examination of prospects for setting up of a South Asian Development Bank by the SAARC finance through the Council of Ministers.

The twentieth year of the establishment of the SAARC, the year 2005 has been designated as South Asia Tourism Year.

The leaders hailed the signing of the SAARC Social Charter as a historic development. Issues covered under the Charter such as poverty alleviation, population stabilisation, empowerment of women, youth mobilisation, human resources development, promotion of health, nutrition and protection of children are key to the welfare and well being of all South Asians.

The leaders declared the Year 2004 as the SAARC Awareness Year.

They welcomed the establishment of a SAARC Cultural Centre in Kandy and the early establishment of the Coast Zone Management Centre in the Maldives.

The leaders agreed to the institution of the SAARC Award and decided to present it during the summits in future as well as the establishment of a SAARC Information Centre in Kathmandu.

Lastly, the leaders expressed the determination to develop mutually beneficial links between SAARC and other regional and international organisations, bodies and entities and agreed to establish dialogue partnership with other regional bodies and with states outside the region, interested in SAARC activities.

 

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