ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will be participating in the 35th session of the SAARC Council of Ministers (COM) meeting in Maldives starting today (Wednesday).

The delegation will be led by Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs. Preparatory meetings of the standing and programming committees at the level of foreign secretary and director general will precede the COM. This two-day (19-20 February 2014) meeting is taking place after a hiatus of two years. The last COM took place in Male, Maldives, in 2011.  

The meeting will take stock of SAARC activities over the past two years. Focus will be on a study that has been carried out by the SAARC Secretariat on restructuring and streamlining the secretariat and its affiliated bodies to make them more cost-effective and productive. In addition, progress on finalising the protection and promotion of trade & investment, motor vehicle and railways agreements will be discussed. The scope of programme and activities of the SAARC Development Fund, South Asia University and SAARC Regional Centres will also be taken up. At this session, a special meeting of the standing committee will be held on February 18, to discuss the role and mandate of observer states in SAARC.

At present SAARC has 9 Observer States (Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea, US and EU) of which 4, namely China, Japan, South Korea and Australia are actively engaged in funding several SAARC development programmes. The decision on inclusion of Turkey as the 10th SAARC Observer State will also be taken. Pakistan supports the role and participation of Observers in SAARC as it raises the organisation’s global stature and has already given its support for Turkey’s entry into the SAARC as an Observer State.

The meeting will also provide an opportunity to the Advisor to meet the new leadership of Maldives and exchange views on matters of mutual interest with other foreign ministers.