The Republic of Maldives, declared “Building Bridges” as the theme for the Seventeenth SAARC Summit to be held in Addu Atoll of the island nation on 10-11 November this year.
“Building Bridges - both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue. However, the notion of bridging differences would be represented as the overarching theme of the summit rather than any set diplomatic or development aims,” stated a Press Release issued by the Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 19 June 2011.
Addressing the media following the unveiling of the theme for the upcoming Summit, President’s Office representative and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) youth arm president Shauna Aminath said that the Maldivian government - as part of SAARC - had been working with fellow member states to try and improve communication and collaboration throughout the region. Shauna took the recent recommencement of ferry services between India and Sri Lanka after a thirty year hiatus as a physical example of the summit’s own aims to try and strengthen economic and diplomatic ties between different member nations for their mutual benefit and prosperity.
She further said, “The idea is to celebrate the differences that we have and use these to unite nations to build a better region. South Asia is specifically unique in that it is home to 100 different languages, ten different major religions and one fifth of the world’s population,” she said. “The Maldives is the lowest lying nation in the world, at the same time [fellow SAARC member] Nepal has the [planet's] highest points. So these are differences, but we want to use these as an opportunity to celebrate as a united force to build bridges of friendship, peace and security.”
The Sixteenth SAARC Summit held in Bhutan in April 2010 devoted to the theme, Climate Change.
The Republic of Maldives hosts the Summit meeting of the SAARC Heads of States or Governments for the third time, having earlier hosted the Fifth and Ninth Summit meetings in 1990 and 1997 respectively.