India asks SAARC nations to rally against terrorism

India asks SAARC nations to rally against terrorism

"The South Asian region is particularly afflicted by this menace. The time has come for us to rally against the forces of terrorism that seek to divide and weaken our societies," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said while addressing the SAARC Council of Ministers here.

Krishna made a strong pitch for early conclusion of the proposed UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and ratification of other regional instruments to jointly combat the menace.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives here tomorrow for the two-day summit during which terrorism is expected to figure high on the agenda.

Krishna said SAARC countries have an abiding obligation to address pressing problems like terrorism and drugs, poverty, unemployment, trafficking in women and children and illiteracy.

These should be addressed through well defined goals based on mutual cooperation and understanding.

"Our effort will be to infuse a fresh dynamism into the regional processes and to strive to channelise the fruits of our collective efforts to the most vulnerable sections of our societies," he said.

The minister said as the countries emerge out of a period of unprecedented global recession into expectations of relative economic growth and stability, they should seize the opportunity to collectively enhance trade, open borders and facilitate economic integration in the region.

"Our focus should be on improving regional connectivity through upgrading trade, transport and telecommunication links; addressing issues relating to trade facilitation such as harmonisation of customs procedures and standards and increasing understanding through greater people-to-people contacts," Krishna said.

India, he said, was fully committed to working within SAARC to contribute to the development of the region through social development and regional economic integration.

He noted that regional projects initiated by India in telemedicine, tele-education, rain water harvesting, seed testing laboratories and solar rural electrification, are under implementation in most SAARC member states.

Krishna said India supported a fresh SAARC position on climate change in accordance with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change principles and the Bali Action Plan.

Under this, concerns of developing countries have been taken onboard.

The SAARC leaders are expected to discuss at length the issue of climate change which is the central theme of the summit. The leaders will come out with a Special SAARC Declaration on Climate Change.

This is the first SAARC Summit hosted by Bhutan and marks 25 years of the establishment of the regional grouping.

Two SAARC agreements on Environment and Trade in Service will be signed during the Summit which will be attended by leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri  Lanka, the Maldives, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

The agreements are expected to open new vistas for cooperation among SAARC countries.

The trade in services pact is expected to enable realisation of the region's immense potential in service areas such as health, hospitality, communications, computer and information services, and air transport.

The SAARC Convention on Environment is expected to promote cooperation among the SAARC countries in the field of environment and sustainable development.

India is also hopeful that the SAARC Agreements on Motor Vehicles, Railways, Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, Multilateral Arrangement of Conformity Assessment Activities of Goods and Services and Regional MRA on Product Certification will also be finalised at the earliest.

The SAARC Development Fund (SDF), which has a paid up capital of USD 300 million, will be operationalised at the inauguration of the summit tomorrow.

"We would urge member states to take full advantage of the mechanism of SDF through expeditious clearance and implementation of projects and programmes to promote the welfare of the people of the SAARC region, to improve their quality of life and to accelerate economic growth, social progress and poverty alleviation in the region," Krishna said.

The SDF Secretariat located here will also be inaugurated during the summit.

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