The annual Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers was held virtually today. The meeting was chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, with participation by Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all SAARC member countries. H.E Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, the new Secretary General of SAARC presented the progress report of SAARC on the status of regional cooperation since the last Informal Meeting in 2019.

Representing the Maldives, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid, in his statement emphasized the importance of regional cooperation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Shahid noted the devastating impacts of COVID-19 pandemic in the region and to the Maldives, where tourism, the main economic pillar, has collapsed. Minister Shahid expressed his deepest gratitude to the Government of India for their overwhelming support to the Maldives in the fight against COVID-19, and beyond. The financial package of US $ 250 million pledged by India is the largest financial support announced by a bilateral partner during COVID 19. Minister Shahid also thanked the Government of Bangladesh for their generous assistance in grant aid and providing medical personnel, and all member states for ensuring the welfare of Maldivians and their repatriation.

Minister Shahid highlighted the need to strengthen intra-regional trade and connectivity, and enhance access to quality education to unleash the full potential of SAARC. In addition, Minister Shahid called for unity among members to eradicate terrorism, the core factor which impedes development in the region, and combat global climate change. Increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather has greatly affected the region this year.

During the meeting, each Member State delivered a country statement reviewing SAARC activities, with a focus on efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries and the SAARC region.

In conclusion, all Member States underlined the importance of SAARC and pledged their commitment to work closely together to promote peace, stability and prosperity for the South Asian people.