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India asks SAARC to introspect and chart course for future

Noting that SAARC has achieved many milestones and created the institutional and legal framework for regional cooperation, India pitched for introspection of the past by the eight-nation grouping and chart a course for future.



Thimphu: Noting that SAARC has achieved many milestones and created the institutional and legal framework for regional cooperation, India today pitched for
introspection of the past by the eight-nation grouping and chart a course for the future.

"The Summit will give Member States an opportunity to introspect on the past and chart a course for the future," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said as he arrived here
for the 16th SAARC Summit in this idyllic city surrounded by mountains.

The eight-nation grouping has chosen climate change as the theme for the summit and are leaders are working on a Silver Jubilee declaration entitled "Towards a Green and Happy South Asia."

"The theme is expected to be reinforced by the signing of a SAARC Convention on Cooperation in Environment by the Foreign Ministers in the presence of the Heads of State and Governments of SAARC Member States," Krishna said.

He said an Agreement on Trade in Services would also be signed during the Summit, thereby opening up new vistas of economic cooperation among SAARC countries.

"As we head for the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu, we are imbued with a sense of confidence and optimism in SAARC as a vehicle for regional development," he said.

Krishna said over the years, SAARC has made visible strides and achieved many milestones and created the institutional and legal framework for regional cooperation
through agreements and programmes covering almost every area of importance to the region, ranging from Poverty Alleviation and Food Security to Terrorism and Women`s Empowerment.

"Its focus on grassroots development is designed to cater to the welfare of the people of South Asia and to bring about an improvement in their quality of life," he said.

With the depth of challenges facing the region, the transformation of SAARC within a quarter of a century to a dynamic vehicle of regional economic cooperation is indeed
remarkable, he said.

"The asymmetric and non-reciprocal participation by India has been an important factor in this process. This has inspired other SAARC Member States to take similar initiative
on regional projects," Krishna said.

He noted that member states have committed themselves to strengthening regional economic cooperation through SAARC, particularly over the three years since the New Delhi Summit in April 2007.

"It is to the credit of SAARC, that despite the global financial recession, trade under SAFTA since its implementation in 2006 amounted to USD 689 million," he said.

The basket of tradeable items is also quite diverse from manufacturing to agriculture products, Krishna said adding that all member states have also reiterated their resolve to facilitate greater trade liberalisation measures and greater tariff reductions.

PTI

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