NEW DELHI: World powers including the United States, the European Union and China will send representatives for the first time to a South Asian summit, the Indian foreign ministry said today.
Japan and South Korea will also send “observers” to the 14th meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to be held in New Delhi on 3-4 April, said a senior official.
The New Delhi summit, to be attended by the heads of government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, will formally welcome Afghanistan as its eighth member, she said.
South Korea, the United States and the European Union were given SAARC “observer” status at a meeting of senior officials in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in August.
China and Japan were also nominated as observers last year.
Formed in 1985, SAARC “aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development in member states,” according to a statement on the group’s website.
But two decades on, SAARC has few achievements to show for itself mainly due to tensions between India and Pakistan.
Last year, New Delhi accused Islamabad of jeopardising a South Asian Free Trade Agreement that entered into force on 1 January 2006 and was aimed at creating the world’s biggest free trade area.
The accord is seen as one of the best hopes of raising the living standards of more than 1.4 billion South Asians.
The foreign ministry official said all SAARC member states were conscious that the grouping had to move from “confabulation to implementation.”
“The time has come to move toward implementation,” she said.
The summit next week will focus on enhancing economic cooperation among members, she said.
Bangladesh played host to the 13th summit in Dhaka in November 2005.