Australia attends South Asian summit in Bhutan
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
MEMBER FOR FRASER
The Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, today reaffirmed Australia's commitment to promoting greater engagement with South Asia.
"We share common interests in democracy, security, trade and investment built on strong historical bonds," Mr McMullan said.
Australia's relationship with South Asia was confirmed with observer status at this week's 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Thimphu, Bhutan.
"Australia welcomed the opportunity to attend the SAARC Summit as a further step in enhancing our long standing and strong bilateral relations with the countries of South Asia," said Mr McMullan, who led Australia's delegation.
Discussions between SAARC's eight diverse member states-Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka-this year focused on climate change in the region.
"SAARC is an important vehicle for greater economic and social development of its members states and by association, increased prosperity and stability in the region.
"We are keen to share our experiences with SAARC member states on key policy issues including climate change and food security," Mr McMullan said.
Mr McMullan announced that Australia will provide $1 million to improve water management and agricultural practices. This project assist agricultural centres in the region to advise farmers how to use their scarce water supplies efficiently for more productive harvests.
"Sharing our experiences in irrigated and dry-land farming will help farmers boost their yields and improve incomes for themselves and their families," Mr McMullan said.
Many of the poor people living in rural South Asia face possible water shortages for farming which will be aggravated by climate change.
Australia will also support member states address water security issues through a $3 million South Asia Water Initiative with the World Bank.
"By improving water management at a regional level, we can help communities across borders who face similar water management problems and rely on the same water sources for their livelihoods. To do this, it is important that we build upon Australia's strengthened ties with South Asia and promote the networks between our institutions," Mr McMullan said.
Australia will increase support for public sector organisations in South Asia and Australia to allow them to work together in areas of mutual interest. This assistance will total $15 million over five years.