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The 16th Ministerial meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) took place in Doha this week. The ACD is a continental level initiative inaugurated in 2002 with 18 founding members to promote interdependence among Asian countries. The core objective of the ACD is to “constitute the missing link in Asia by incorporating every Asian country and building an Asian Community without duplicating other organizations or creating a bloc against others.” Currently, the organisation has 34 members and is focussed on two aspects, that is, dialogue and projects. Its ministerial meetings have taken place annually since the inauguration and among its key projects are promoting cooperation are in the areas of “energy, agriculture, biotechnology, tourism, poverty alleviation, IT development, e-education and financial cooperation.”

The focus during the 16th Ministerial meeting was to discuss strategies to achieve the larger objectives of sustainable growth through partnership in six principle areas including energy cooperation, eradication of poverty, building transport infrastructure, clean environment, promoting tourism and agriculture. The meeting underlined the need for “strengthening regional cooperation, including all programmes and initiatives aimed at facilitating and expanding regional trade, transit, increasing investment and promoting infrastructure development.” In this regard, the meeting stressed on the significance of developing ACD as a regional cooperation mechanism for promoting sustainable development through environmental protection, inclusive socio-economic growth and political stability.

Education and Knowledge economy are other areas that were discussed during the ministerial meeting and an agreement on cooperation among six universities, including the University of Asia Online, Siam University (Thailand), Daffodil International University (Bangladesh), Panjab* University (India), University of Surabaya (Indonesia) and Our Lady of Fatima University (Philippines), was signed to promote educational cooperation. It was decided to establish a university centre for communication network of Asian dialogue at the Siam University to facilitate academic cooperation among universities based in ACD countries.

At the end of the Ministerial meeting, the Doha Declaration was issued which noted the need for dialogue and cooperation among Asian countries and with international organisations to enhance the status of Asia and develop its global competitiveness. The Declaration noted that significant progress in achieving stability and economic growth in Asia over the last decade and Asia’s emergence as “a major driving force for global economic growth” and “global partnership.” It was decided during the meeting that Turkey will be the next chair of the ACD and the 17thministerial meeting will be held in Turkey. The meeting also welcomed Qatar’s proposal to host the Third ACD Summit in 2020 and reaffirmed the proposal to observe 18 June as ACD Day.

India, which is one of the founding members of the ACD, was represented in the 16th ministerial meeting by a delegation led by its Minister of State for External Affairs. The Indian Minister in his address underlined the problem faced by Asia due to the menace of terrorism and emphasised on the need to develop a cooperative mechanism to fighting terrorism. He underlined the recent terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, and, while expressing India’s grief and condemnation, argued for the need to “expeditiously adopt the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (UNCCIT).”

New Delhi re-emphasised its commitment towards the theme of the meeting “Partners in Progress” and stated that this is in line with India’s approach of “collective efforts and inclusive growth.” The Indian delegation also underlined India’s international efforts towards promotion of peace and stability and taking lead in use of cleaner energy for sustainable growth and healthy environment. In this regard, India invited all members of the ACD to join the International Solar Alliance launched in November 2015 by the Indian Prime Minister. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs discussed the possibilities of cooperation among ACD member states in the areas of energy and food security, research and innovation, access to clean water and financial inclusion.

Note:  This article was originally published in Air World Service on 5 May 2019 and has been reproduced with the permission of the author. Web link