New Delhi Statement
SAARC 2015 and Asian Resurgence
Conference on “SAARC 2015: Expanding Horizons
and Forging Cooperation in a Resurgent Asia was held
in New Delhi on 09 -11 February 2007.
The Conference was attended among others by ministers, former ministers,
diplomats, academics, businessmen and other civil society members
of SAARC countries including Afghanistan, a new member of SAARC.
Delegates from China, Korea, Japan, European Union (countries and
organization with observer status in SAARC), ASEAN and GCC participated
in the Conference.
list of participants is at Annex I.
participants had before them a Background Paper prepared by the
Conference organizers Ambassador Kant Bhargava and Prof Mahendra
P Lama (Annex II)
program of the Conference is at Annex III.
his inaugural address, Dr I. K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of
India and Chairman of the Indian Council for South Asian Cooperation
highlighted that the SAARC process served as a strong regional forum
by bringing the leadership of its member countries to a common platform.
At the same time, it has generated a parallel process of un-official
SAARC. Last two decades have witnessed an unprecedented rise in
the interactions and networking among various institutions, agencies
and civil society organisations of South Asia.
Regrettably, as a result of South Asia missing opportunities after
opportunities, the cumulative cost of non-cooperation has been very
high. In this context he stressed that “We must change
and not become caged by traditional mindsets”. India
could make some significant unilateral gestures to build confidence
among its neighbors and to facilitate their participation in regional
cooperation and development matters on an equal footing.
In his view, South Asian countries have to grow together and move
towards integration with ASEAN.
He pointed out the need to reposition South Asia as a community
in the changing Asian and global context. He posed the critical
question “Could South Asia as an economic power house
become a flag bearer of new Asianism accommodating the entire spectrum
of political ideologies?”
his concluding statement as the Chairperson of the inaugural session,
Dr. Karan Singh, Member of Parliament and President of the Indian
Council for Cultural Cooperation, observed that for SAARC to realize
its optimal potential, it was important for India and Pakistan to
get over their differences and problems. This will also enable South
Asia as a region to reach out to the rest of the world. Fortunately,
the composite dialogue process was now well in place with encouragement
by creative activism on the part of civil society elements in the
remarked that there is now confluence of:
interests of Asian countries;
advances by them in technologies and productive processes; and
value systems of these countries
SAARC will be able to gain a lot by expanding its horizons and forging
cooperation in this new environment with China, Japan and Korea
having an observer status in SAARC and Afghanistan as its new member.
He pointed out that the most critical aspects of cooperation and
of the strength of South Asia are cultural exchanges including those
through tourism. He referred to the recent understanding at the
East Asia Summit to strengthen regional education cooperation and
to the initiative for the revival of Nalanda University in India
to improve regional understanding and the appreciation of one another’s
heritage and history.
The Opening Plenary Session on “Asian Dynamism and
Challenges for Synergising Internal and External Cooperation of
South Asia” was chaired by Dr. Arjun Sengupta, Member
of Parliament and Chairperson of the Governing Body of Research
and Information System (RIS).
The participants noted that the Background Paper for the Conference
contained references to:
suggestion that has been made by Prime Minister of Pakistan
about an integrated framework for intra-regional co-operation
(in Asia) in strategic areas such as energy, water, food,
infrastructure connectivity, investment in human capital and
economic and social transformation through structural reforms;
remark of the Prime Minister of India terming the Asian Economic
Community as constituting ‘an arc of advantage’
in terms of prosperity, stability and closer economic integration
where there would be large-scale movement of people, capital,
labor, ideas and creativity.
Following important points were made by the presenters Dr. Sartaz
Aziz, Former Finance and Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Kamal
Hossain Former Foreign and Law Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. Bhekh
Bahadur Thapa Former Foreign Minister of Nepal and Dr. Mahmood Shaugee,
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation of Maldives:
has not been able to realize its full potential because of the
existence of serious political differences and disputes in the
region giving rise to tensions and mistrust among member states.
is now ripe to give concrete shape to the recommendations of
1998 Report of the Group of Eminent Persons in the field of
trade i.e. starting from the South Asian Free Trade Area in
phase I, SAARC to move to a Customs Union in phase II and South
Asian Economic Union in phase III to be completed by 2020; transport
and telecommunications; cooperation in the field of energy;
and evolving of common positions on emerging global economic
ability to forge stronger relations with other regions can improve
progressively as the obstacles arising from mistrust and suspicion
are overcome and SAARC becomes a more vibrant and dynamic organization.
terms of sequencing, it will not be necessary to require that
SAARC itself must make substantial progress in different areas
before it expands its horizons and strengthens cooperation with
other regions. The two processes can move on parallel tracks
and become mutually reinforcing.
importance may be accorded to the prospects for sub-regional
co-operation while pursuing the goal of strengthening overall
co-operation in South Asia. Geographical realities, resource
endowments and manifest complementarities point to significant
benefits which could result for all partners from sub-regional
cooperation in the North-Eastern sub-region of South Asia, comprising
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and North Eastern areas of India.
gains for SAARC countries would take place in the fields of
Tourism and Civil Aviation as a result of open skies agreement
and with SAARC developing cooperation with the neighboring countries
in a resurgent Asia.
The participants noted that Asia’s economic dynamism will
increasingly have a major impact on South Asian region as a whole.
Developments in the neighboring regions of South Asia pose enormous
challenges and offer significant opportunities to SAARC countries
in the areas of trade, energy, and environment.
a special presentation, Hon’ble Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister
of State in the Ministry of Commerce shared with the participants
his perspective of developments within SAARC following the entry
into force of SAFTA. India has already initiated a number of trade
facilitation measures vis-à-vis its neighbors including measures
for improvements in cross border movement of goods and people, and
removal of non-tariff barriers. He pointed out that the concept
of border trade needs to be widened so as to cover trade at
border. In this regard he recalled that the Government of India
had already started drastically modernizing the facilities at 13
crucial customs points with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
He stressed that it is non-tariff barriers and not tariffs barriers
which were really restricting the movement of goods and services
in the region. He observed that India tops the list in the imposition
of these non-tariff barriers. He called for a comprehensive study
to first identify these and then for undertaking of actions to remove
them. He highlighted the difficulties in realizing Myanmar-Bangladesh-India
gas pipeline. He emphasized the importance of cross border connectivity.
Lack of timely action in this regard could be very costly to smaller
countries in the region.
In the Second Session, four concurrent Working Groups discussed
perspectives of relations of South Asia with other regions. Group
A deliberated on South Asia’s relations with South East Asia;
Group B with East Asia; Group C with Central Asia and Gulf Countries;
and Group D with European Union and North America. The participants
discussed issues related to connectivity both within and outside
the region, institutional linkages, migration and role of Diaspora,
broadening of trade and investment activities including into services
sectors like tourism, finance, education, insurance and banking.
The Reports of the Working Groups were presented and discussed in
the Third Plenary Session.
Following are some noteworthy outcomes of the deliberations
in the four Groups:
Asia’s resurgence both regions, ASEAN and SAARC are important
in terms of natural and human resources.
vis South Asian countries, ASEAN is mainly interested in better
market access, attracting FDI and visits of high-end tourists
far as trans-national migration is concerned, South Asia needs
to get its act together and think it through. There are also
issues of citizenship for Indians in Southeast Asia.
maritime security matters, cooperation between ASEAN and SAARC
may be possible within the framework of IOMAC and IOARC.
and SAARC foreign ministers have been meeting every year at
the UN General Assembly but nothing of substance has resulted
from such meetings.
cooperation has better potential than ASEAN-South Asia arrangement.
Under the BIMSTEC, seven areas of cooperation have been identified
and steady progress has been made on these issues.
larger concept of trade at border needs to be promoted inter
alia through agreement on cross-border movement of peoples and
goods, improvement of infrastructure and strengthening of mutual
research may be undertaken by the upper stream and down stream
countries on various issues relating to usage of water.
multilateral mechanism to effectively counter terrorism needs
to be established.
East Asian countries may consider possibilities of:
their investment in South Asia and of extending assistance to
SAARC for regional programs;
their experiences with South Asian countries in the fields of
economic development and reduction of poverty
SAARC countries may:
organizing joint trade exhibitions in the East Asian region,
due note of likely increased demand in East Asian countries
of skilled manpower from South Asia due to emerging shortages
in East Asia in years to come;
defining the role that Observer States in SAARC would play.
is the need to have a clearer perception of the relationship
between bilateral and multilateral modes of interaction while
considering perspectives of relations between South Asia and
GCC and those between South Asia and Central Asia.
thinking is required for establishing cooperation in human resource
development, transport and energy,
times, South Asian Diaspora communities have been working at
cross-purposes by adopting a country perspective. There is the
need to go beyond that and generate activity using South Asian/SAARC
identity as a vehicle.
Asia and GCC
knowledge gap between SAARC and GCC needs to be closed.
at the institutional level between SAARC and GCC Secretariats
should be initiated.
and GCC can look at possibilities for institutional collaboration
in the areas of Human Resource Development, Information Technology,
and Energy Investment Projects.
issue of Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved
peacefully and South Asia needs to adopt a pro-active role
and support the efforts being made by GCC to avert a military
showdown between Iran and the United States.
for cooperation between SAARC and the GCC in the fields of
education, communication and information technology may be
Asia and Central Asia
should work for the stability of Afghanistan. Collaboration
between India and Pakistan was the key to achieving this goal.
needs to develop a multilateral framework for energy collaboration
between Central Asia and South Asia.
Asian states need assistance in human resource development and
SAARC member states can offer them considerable assistance in
Asia energy resources had not been tapped by South Asia and
this can only be done if peace and security returns to Afghanistan.
stable Afghanistan was the key to the future of cooperation
between South Asia and Central Asia..
The presentations and discussions brought out following important
has at present a strategic partnership with India and has bilateral
agreements with five South Asian countries. For time being EU
intends to focus on bilateral relationship.
considers SAARC as a factor for internal stability in South
SAFTA gets implemented in right earnest, then by 2015 there
would be better scope for cooperation between EU and SAARC.
Cecchini Report on cost of Non-Europe highlighted the important
role of regional cooperation. This may have some lessons for
has certain bodies like the European Economic and Social Committee,
Committee of the Regions, Congress of local and regional authorities.
These bodies facilitate people to people contacts and interaction.
Such bodies may be set up in South Asia. These together with
various professional bodies at regional level may discuss
what needs to be done to strengthen SAARC. SAARC may consider
the advantages of setting up in South Asia an organization
like The Council of Europe. The Association of the
Speakers and Members of Parliament of South Asian Countries
may be strengthened.
South Asia-North America
The presentations and discussions brought out following important
State Department officials consider the South Asian region
as very important mainly because of issues of Terrorism, Environment,
Democracy, International Peace Keeping and Marketing.
relationship with South Asian countries is largely country
specific. It has a strategic relationship with India and a
strategic partnership with Pakistan.
private sector is mainly interested in India. But there are
several companies in USA having the positions of Vice-President
for South Asia.
USAID has considerable interest in integrating and connecting
South Asia and Central Asia through infrastructure and energy
projects. Energy related Program of USAID in South Asia known
as South Asia Regional Initiative on Energy (SARI-E) has met
with a lot of success.
considers democracy as the key foundation for development.
As such it considers building of democracy in South Asian
countries as a very important matter. Engagement of USA with
the South Asian region as a whole will happen as the countries
of the region begin to benefit from the prosperity and rapid
economic development of India.
conflicts in the Indian sub-continent do get reflected in
USA in inter-se relationship of South Asian Diaspora.
of relationship between South Asian countries and Canada are
bright in areas of Education, Science and Technology particularly
hi-tech areas and immigration.
is deeply involved in bringing about stability in Afghanistan,
now a member of SAARC and has earmarked considerable aid for
South Asian Community in Canada is very large and growing. By
2015, Canada will need about one million skilled immigrants.
As the Dinner Speaker on February 10, Dr. Gowher Rizvi,
Director, Ash Institute for Democratic Governance & Innovation,
Harvard University presented his perspectives on the proposed South
Ms Preeti Saran, Joint Secretary in-charge of SAARC Division in
the Ministry of External Affairs and Special invitee made her presentation
in the Fourth Session. She pointed out that it was time to move
SAFTA and SAARC Development Fund (SDF) into the implementation phase.
She hoped that SAFTA would be operationalised and implemented in
the spirit in which it was negotiated and that its scope will be
enlarged so as to include trade in services. As regards the SDF,
she recalled that India had offered $100 million funding for poverty
alleviation projects in other SAARC countries. The theme of the
forthcoming SAARC Summit will be SAARC: Towards the Theme of
Connectivity through Trade, Transport and Energy Corridors.
The idea is to work for connectivity in the region and then to the
outside world. Some of the concrete proposals which India had in
mind were those relating to South Asian University, Telemedicine
and IT enabled health services, cooperation in the energy sector
including in non-conventional sources of energy. India is for open
regionalism and believes that SAARC will benefit from external linkages.
Following her presentation, other presenters and members of the
Panel outlined various elements of vision and strategy of SAARC
in its Third Decade. There was agreement that SAARC as a regional
institution needs to foster and consolidate the process of regional
cooperation and integration within itself. But this task should
be undertaken against the challenging backdrop of deepening of globalisation
process, resurgence and growing dynamism of Asia, new outward looking
trends and changing realities in South Asia.
The Concluding Session was chaired by Prof BB Bhattacharya, Vice
Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The participants
discussed the draft Statement of the Conference that was presented
to the Plenary by Prof. Mahendra P Lama.
the Conference decided to recommend the following for consideration
of the forthcoming 14th SAARC Summit scheduled to take place in
April 2007 in New Delhi:
setting up of a South Asian University.
of the concept of Gateway Strategies in member countries of
SAARC. This goes beyond physical connectivity and includes
its human dimensions in areas such as education, health, research
and innovation, and understanding of these regions and their
cultures. Such strategies need to be devised nationally as
well as regionally in South Asia and in its neighbouring regions.
and strengthening of Bridges of Communications in South Asia
and between South Asia and its neighbouring regions.
of a regional study on non-tariff barriers that adversely
affect bilateral and regional trade.
establishments of networks of academic institutions of SAARC
countries and those from other regions so as to promote better
mutual understanding of perspectives of relations of South
Asia with these regions.
in the website of SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.
of a Vision and Strategy Group of Eminent Persons from SAARC
countries for formulating recommendations for comprehensive
internal as well as external regional cooperation in the context
of globalization and Asian Resurgence.
of Studies on strategies for South Asia’s smooth and
eventual integration with resurgent Asian regions and the
potential of South Asia to play a catalytic role in the evolution
of Pan Asian cooperation.
annually in conjunction with SAARC Summit meetings of South
Asian Regional Economic Forum for consideration of mega regional
projects that are ripe for discussion.
free regime and facilitation of travel inside the region for
promoting generally people to people contacts and in particular
for business, professional and tourism purposes.
to bring South Asian Diaspora together and work collectively
opening of global labour markets.
of the SAARC Process by
of appropriate implementing and coordinating mechanisms for
various SAARC programmes.
of SAARC Secretariat through induction of more professionals.
building of the civil servants and others concerned with formulation
and implementation of SAARC projects and programmes.
attention on implementation of recommendations of SAARC Social
participants agreed to widely disseminate the contents of this Statement
in their respective countries. The Conference agreed that the contents
of the Statement be brought to the attention of the policy and decision
makers, media, politicians, civil society and other organisations.
The participants also agreed to put on the websites of their institutions
the Statement of this conference and other relevant documents.
Organisers also undertook to transmit the Statement of the Conference
to the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu, policy makers, opinion makers
in various member countries.
participants recommended periodical convening of this type of regional
Conference thanked the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung for the valuable
support it is extending through its South Asia Regional Program.