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SAARC Summit vows to combat terror, boost regional trade ties

The two-day SAARC Summit concluded here on Thursday with member countries vowing to root out terrorism and infuse new dynamism to its activities for the region`s development.



Thimphu: The two-day SAARC Summit
concluded here on Thursday with member countries vowing to root out
terrorism and infuse new dynamism to its activities for the
region`s development, besides signing a trade agreement aimed
at opening new vistas in economic integration.

Noting that SAARC had not achieved its potential even
25 years after coming into being, the eight-nation grouping
decided to have a `Vision Statement` and set up a forum of
experts which would provide inputs for charting out its future
course in the medium and long-run and suggest, if necessary,
improvements required in the existing mechanisms.

After two-days of intense deliberations over issues
like security, trade, climate change, emery and food security,
poverty-alleviation and disaster management, the Summit issued
a declaration -- `Towards a Green and Happy South Asia` --
which spelt out a slew of initiatives to bring about overall
development of the region.

"The Leaders agreed that the scope and substance of
cooperation had expanded to diverse fields, providing a firm
basis for genuine partnership.

"However, a number of these had not translated into
meaningful and tangible benefits to the people," said the
Thimphu declaration after the Summit, which was attended by
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders from seven other
member countries.

It said the leaders, therefore, highlighted the need
for more efficient, focused, time-bound and people-centric
activities and called for appropriate reflection of all the
SAARC decisions into the national policies and programmes of
member states.

"They resolved that the Silver Jubilee Year should be
commemorated by making SAARC truly action oriented by
fulfilling commitments, implementing declarations and
decisions and operationalising instruments and living up to
the hopes and aspirations of one-fifth of humanity," it said.

The leaders strongly condemned terrorism in all its
forms and manifestations and expressed deep concern over the
threat which terrorism continues to pose to peace, security
and economic stability of the South Asian region, the
declaration said.

"They reiterated their firm resolve to root out
terrorism," it said, adding the leaders emphasised the need to
strengthen regional cooperation to fight terrorism and
transnational organised crimes.

The countries, including Pakistan, reaffirmed their
commitment to implement the SAARC Regional Convention on
Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol and SAARC
Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

The leaders re-emphasised the importance of
coordinated and concerted response to combat terrorism.

The SAARC leaders also recognised in this regard the
value of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on
International Terrorism and noted the progress made during the
recent rounds of negotiations and called for an early
conclusion of the Convention.

The leaders welcomed the hosting of the Third Meeting
of SAARC Home/Interior Ministers and related meetings in
Islamabad to review the implementation of relevant SAARC
Conventions.

They underscored the importance of the SAARC
Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and called
for its ratification.

The leaders also welcomed the signing of the SAARC
Agreement on Trade in Services during the Summit and hoped
that it would open up new vistas of trade cooperation and
further deepen the integration of the regional economies.

They called for the early ratification of the
Agreement.

The leaders also stressed the need for the early
conclusion of negotiations on the specific schedule of
commitments under the Agreement.

The leaders also pressed for strengthening the role of
private sector in regional initiatives through appropriate
mechanisms including through Public-Private Partnership as
well as the need for greater intra-SAARC investment promotion
efforts.

The Heads of Government and State underlined the need
for taking concrete measures to improve trade facilitation and
directed the relevant SAARC bodies to expedite their work in
these areas.

They also recognised the importance of development of
communication system and transport infrastructure and transit
facilities specially for the landlocked countries to promote
intra-SAARC trade. The member countries reiterated their
commitment to implement SAFTA in letter and spirit.

Pakistan has refused to implement the agreement in
relation to India and insists on trading on the basis of
Positive List of items.

The leaders emphasised the need to realise the full
potential, through reduction of the size of the sensitive
lists, acceleration of trade facilitation measures, and
removal of non-tariff, para-tariff and other barriers.

They directed the SAFTA Ministerial Council to work in
earnest in these areas in a time-bound manner.

The leaders noted with appreciation that SAARC
Commerce Ministers had coordinated SAARC position on WTO
Issues and Doha Development Agenda during the Seventh WTO
Ministerial Conference and agreed on the SAARC Ministerial
Communique. They directed the Commerce Ministers to continue
the process.

They emphasised on a greater focus to pursue
people-centric development with due emphasis on socio-cultural
progress and upholding traditions and values.

In that regard, they noted the concept of Gross
National Happiness (GNH) pursued by Bhutan, inter alia, in
ensuring people-centric development, culture, preservation of
environment, better governance.

They further noted that other Member States might
consider Bhutan`s experience with the concept and welcomed
Bhutan`s offer to host a SAARC Workshop on GNH in 2010.

The leaders emphasised on deepening regional efforts
on poverty alleviation, the overarching objective of SAARC.

They called for the expeditious mainstreaming of the
SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) in the national processes and
completion of the Mid-term Review of the SDGs as scheduled.

They further noted the useful finding and
recommendations made by successive regional studies through
the Regional Poverty Profiles (RPPs) and directed the relevant
SAARC mechanisms to act on them.

In this regard, they welcomed the offer of the
Government of Nepal to host the Third Ministerial Meeting on
Poverty Alleviation in 2011.

SAARC leaders agreed to begin talks on initiating a
common position for the climate talks in Cancun and decided to
launch a number of studies to better understand the changes
due to global warming in the region, home to 1.6 billion
people.

The leaders of the eight-nation bloc underscored the
need to initiate the process to formulate a common SAARC
position for the 16th Conference of Parties to be held in
Cancun, Mexico. Bhutan has offered to host a meeting of an
Inter-governmental Expert Group meeting in this regard.

The group comprises India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives.

PTI

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