SAARC leaders vow to combat terror, climate change jointly

SAARC leaders vow to combat terror, climate change jointly

Kicking off the two-day SAARC Summit here, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said no cause can be enhanced or served through acts of terror and those responsible for such heinous crimes must know that they would be brought to justice.

Voicing concerns over the menace of terrorism, extremism and radicalism, Prime Minister Singh asked the SAARC countries to pledge to "revive the South Asia of our dreams that is once again a source of new ideas, new knowledge and new opportunities".

In a hard-hitting speech, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said terrorism cannot be eliminated until all SAARC members without exception or reservation commit not to allow their territories to be used directly or indirectly to shelter, arm or train terrorist groups.
He made it clear, without naming any country, that differences have to be set aside to decisively defeat terrorism which poses a threat to peace and prosperity in the region.
Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani made no mention of Indo-Pak relations in their speeches as they sat on the dais along with leaders from Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan.

In unusual remarks, Maldivian President Mohammad Nasheed talked about the strained relations between India and Pakistan, saying he hoped that tomorrow's meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two nations will lead to resolution of their differences.
Nasheed, who spoke extempore, said that he hoped that the "conversation will lead to greater dialogue between India and Pakistan."

In a veiled reference to Indo-Pak ties that tend to dominate SAARC meets, the Bhutanese Prime Minister said "every South Asian knows that a discordant family cannot be happy and that fractious and quarrelsome neighbours do not make a prosperous community.

The day-long deliberations saw the leaders highlighting the challenges posed by climate change and the importance of South Asian countries to work together in overcoming them.

The leaders noted that the SAARC countries have finalised a Regional Convention on Environment and made a strong pitch for having a joint position for the bloc at the climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, in December. Setting the tone for the Summit which he described as historic, Singh said regional cooperation could be a significant multiplier in improving the quality of governance in managing natural resources and preventing land and water degradation while strengthening food, water and energy security.
He regretted that the glass of regional cooperation, development and integration is half-empty. The share of intra-regional trade and investment flows in South Asia is far below than what is seen in east and south-east Asia.

In his speech, Karzai spoke about the terrorist attacks over the past two years in Kabul, Islamabad and Mumbai, saying these were gruesome reminders that terrorism continues to find a place in the region.

"It has escalated in reach and become audacious in its attempts to destabilise our societies... We are all increasingly vulnerable to the destruction and suffering that it causes," he said.

The Afghan leader came out in strong support of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, saying it was an excellent platform for practical regional cooperation to eliminate the scourge.

Noting that terrorism has affected the region, the Pakistan Prime Minister said "this toxic brew under the garb of diverse ideologies and diverse agendas has taken root".
He said the SAARC countries need to join hands to fight terrorism individually and collectively.

SAARC Home Ministers will be meeting in Islamabad in June this year to strengthen cooperation to combat terrorism and extremism.Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dismissed those justifying violence in the name of Islam. "We categorically reject claims of those who cloak themselves in the rhetoric of Islam or any other faith to justify violence," she said.

Hasina also asked SAARC countries to rise above their differences and take bold decisions to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the defeat of separatism and terrorism in his country over the last two years has given an opportunity to engage in open discussions and reach consensus without the fear of guns.

He said the need of the hour for SAARC was to avoid externally induced rigid solutions and to enhance its collective interactions on global issues.

 Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal underlined the need for collective efforts of SAARC member nations in tackling the increasing challenges of climate change.
He said Himalayan countries were most affected by natural disasters like ice melting and river pollution caused by climate change.

The summit also saw inauguration of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Secretariat here. The SDF, with a paid up capital of 300 million dollars, was operationalised for extending financial support to various socially relevant programmes.

Earlier in the day, Bhutanese dancers dressed in colourful attires welcomed the SAARC leaders along the road to Tashichodzong, the main secretariat building that houses the National Assembly Hall, the office of the Bhutanese King and the throne room.
Key roads in the picturesque Bhutanese capital were decorated with national flags of the SAARC countries and pictures of the leaders attending the summit.
School children and residents stood along the road leading to the Tashichodzong waving national flags of SAARC countries and singing songs as the leaders drove to the summit venue.

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