The 13th summit of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has begun in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh today. Being active since 1985 the forum steps into the third decade amidst great expectations. Representing a combined population of over 1.4 billion, these seven nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are yet to sort out poverty reduction issues, trade barriers and travel restrictions, and other cooperation between them, which could be a mutually beneficial platform and a strong union like EU.

Here are some of the bloggers and news sources takes on this summit:

Bangladesh has spent a lot in decorating the capital, on and around the summit venues with beautiful lightings and other roadside designs. The streets were cleaned and beautified. Blogger Rajputro took some pictures, which gives you a glimpse of Dhaka in nighttime during the SAARC. Strong security measures have been taken up deploying 40,000 security forces and virtually keeping many important roads of Dhaka city off-limit for general citizens. Many businesses are closed and the government has declared a holiday on the 13th of November making it a long weekend of 3 days so that the movement of the dignitaries can be secured.

Although the city is in holiday mood, the traffic is less not only because of the holidays. Many streets are completely deserted because people do not want to be harassed by security forces, which have put check posts in many places and obstructing traffics. Dhaka city has become off limit to beggars as they may cause embarrassment and security concern in front of the foreign dignitaries. Their presence in the capital city will definitely undermine the SAARC agenda for poverty alleviation in South Asian countries! Expat Ilyeana is simply bored with the curfew like situation. Salam wonders how much money did the economy lose for shutting down portions of Dhaka city. In Dhaka's bazaars, SAARC brings mixed feelings.

Sanjoy tells about the most coveted job in preparation of the summit. Adda has some questions for the SAARC leaders to answer as no agreement is likely to be made on three controversial trade cooperation SAFTA points.

The Daily Pakistan welcomes Afghanistan & China's inclusion in SAARC terming them ‘new blood to anemic SAARC’. However the entry of both the states are yet to be decided by the nations.

People are expecting South Asia to rise above regional divide and make SAARC important and fruitful. It should come of age and bring some concrete gains to citizens of South Asia, fifty per cent of whom live below the poverty line earning barely one dollars a day per person.

Other links :

* The daily Star special SAARC supplement.

* SAARC official website.


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