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Bhutan ready to host green summit

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Tiny Himalayan country, Bhutan will host the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in its capital Thimphu. The two day meeting, starting on April 28 next, will witness the participation of the 'heads of state or government' of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives with the host Bhutan.

The SAARC) is regional forum launched in 1985 with eight countries in South Asian region. The forum, which represents over 150 Crore people, has the mandate to work for some important areas like agriculture, rural development, health, transport, science and technology, telecommunications, meteorology, sports, arts and culture. Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital hosted the first SAARC summit on December 7-8 (1985).

Thimphu summit will primarily highlight the issue of climate change and theme of the summit will be 'Conservation of Environment and Climate'. In addition the ion like poverty reduction, connectivity and sharing of water resources, quoting the Bhutanese ambassador to Bangladesh Dasho Bap Kesang, the media reported.

Mentionable that this is the first time, Bhutan has organized the SAARC summit and it's the 25 years of its existence of the regional political forum too. Transformed into a multiparty democracy two years back, the Himalayan nation earlier was skipped of the opportunity for various reasons including the lack of infrastructure and logistic support in Thimphu.

The summit, where observers from China, Iran, Japan, Australia, Mauritius, Burma, South Korea with the European Union and United States will be present, is supposed to provide adequate space for discussion on its theme of climate change. Prior to the main summit, the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives will meet on April 27.

Kuensel, a government run newspaper from Thimphu, reports about the brisk preparation for the summit saying, from whitewashing retention walls in the capital to putting the finishing touches to the enclave in Motithang, preparations are in full swing as the country gears up to host the 16th SAARC summit.

Meanwhile, the ministers' enclave, named the SAARC Village, where the leaders will reside has been inaugurated, the streetlights are all lit, the flags of the eight members nations are fluttering in Thimphu's breeze, reported the local media.

Quoting the Bhutanese foreign minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering, the newspaper also disclosed, “The capital city will be swarmed with delegates. About 450, including VVIPs, and another 150 journalists, are expected to be in Thimphu to cover the proceedings of the summit.”

The summit will greatly enhance Bhutan's international image as a sovereign, independent, responsible and equal member country of SAARC, expressed the Bhutanese prime minister Jigmi Y Thinley. Talking to media recently, the prime minister also added that in Thimphu was now preparing 'in terms of the administration, infrastructure and the foreign ministry being ready to host the summit'.

Kuensel, the pioneer newspaper of Bhutan has made some critical comments in one of its editorials on the performance of SAARC, saying that the regional grouping had been lambasted for getting nowhere after all these years and 'is often compared to other regional groupings that started much later but have moved far ahead'.

“Home to almost 1.5 billion people, the SAARC region is extremely rich in history and culture, yet has millions of people living in extreme poverty. One of the founding goals of the SAARC regional cooperation was to improve the quality of life of South Asians, specifically to address poverty through improved economic cooperation. Unfortunately, very little has happened with regional politics generally casting the long dark shadow,” the editorial commented.

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Articles by Nava Thakuria