Why are they sitting this way?

Full Text Sharing

Why are the SAARC leaders sitting this way? Is this a way conducive to discussions and negotiations among them? I do not think so. Probably because the organizational culture of the region highlights formalities and yesterday was the day of the grand opening, so a day of big speeches but are all these speeches really important? Why were all the delegations sitting so far away from their leaders?

It is true that most of the decisions are taken before the summits start but it is also true that the evil is in the details and oftentimes it is up to the leaders to find a compromise around a table.

I can’t imagine what would happen if one of the Head of State/Government had something to ask to one of his advisors sitting far away from the stage. If there were serious discussions or negotiations rather than dry speeches like yesterday that would be the norm given the vast amount of issues at stakes. It is normal for a head of state/government to consult with his or her staff of advisors all along the meetings.

 I can’t really understand why that kind of setting was chosen, why was the main venue of the summit a city hall, basically something more resembling a theater than a venue for international summits?

It is always said that SAARC should not copy and paste from EU or other regional organizations. But for the sake of logistics, see below the sitting arrangements of the European Council, the institutional gathering of all the heads of government of the EU.

Isn’t much better? Isnt’ more convenient this way? More than everything I believe it is more practical,it allows the leaders to look into eachother and it allows also more interaction among them. It also allows leaders to consult as much as they want with their close advisors sitting behind them. Also the UN Security Concil has a similar sitting arrangement.

It is also true that we cannot compare the SAARC and the EU. The latter is something much more than a regional cooperation association, it is an union of nations who delegated vast amount of their sovereignity to common centralized institutions. The EU is also something in progress, not a SAARC but not yet a full confederation. It is an hybrid as recently described by Harry Kissinger  in his last book.

Let’s respect the way of doing business in South Asia but pragmatism is a necessity rather than formaliites. Moreover the official meetings should be held at close doors. We need to pay a price in terms of transparency but we need to let the leaders talk freely among themselves. Not everything must communicated to the public. At the end of the day we are talking about delicate and sensitive issues. It is also normal to have “flare ups’ among them and these accidents  must remained among them.

Why having so many folks in the same room? Are all they key advisors? They could have had a short opening with the Observer Countries, a formal ceremony but  then lock themselves up in a private room like the EU Council.

Said that we know that there  are many impediments to a stronger cooperation among SAARC nations. Despite Prime Minister Modi was talking yesterday about more integration, it is also true that the agreements that were supposed to be signed during the summit are now in jeopardy because of last minutes resistance from Pakistan. Call it politics. It is just a pity that two leaders like Sharif and Modi cannot even shake the hands or even talk to each other. This is something shameful despite the Kashmir related tensions.

Maybe a way out for the future could be to have more meetings not at Heads of State/Government but more at ministerial level and burocrats level. The lower you go, the lower is the ego. Pragmatism can prevail if common sense prevails. After the regional integration can move ahead withouth the leaders of the SAARC nations to meet. I believe that it would be important for them to meet at least once in a year but the rest of the game should be conducted at different levels, by ministers and other senior officers. The Secretariat can do a lot of work, proposing new ideas and pushing for implementing what already decided.

Hopefully today in Dhulikhel during their mini retreat, the SAARC leaders will have a chance to talk properly and possibly the sitting arrangement will be better.




Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

About Us

The idea is simple: creating an open “Portal” where engaged and committed citizens who feel to share their ideas and offer their opinions on development related issues have the opportunity to do...


Please fell free to contact us. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.

Empowered by ENGAGE,
Toward the Volunteering Inspired Society.