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17th SAARC summit kicks off in Maldives (2)

(Xinhua)

08:38, November 11, 2011

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Addu City of Maldives, on Nov. 10, 2011. The 17th SAARC Summit kicked off here on Thursday with the theme of "Building Bridges -- both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue". (Xinhua/Huang Xiaoyong)

At the opening ceremony of the Summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for all SAARC countries to work together to eliminate terrorism.

"Terrorism presents an enormous challenge to the people and SAARC needs to work together to eliminate this menace," he said. SAARC can also work together to promote culture and arts that can be used to promote tourism in the region. He welcomed a consideration to establish dialogue with partners to promote the travel industry.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to promote fair trade in the region. He spoke positively of the progress made in SAARC, terming it as "impressive" and pointed out that many sectors including trade, transport, health and education have benefited from it.

"Our summit is taking place at a time when the West is having an economic crisis. In the meantime developing countries like ours will be squeezed for capital and markets and we should look for innovative solutions within South Asian region," he said.

Development within countries would attract foreign investors and freeing of trade between SAARC members would create benefit for all nations.

South Asia has been able to maintain a respectable growth rate and this encouraging trend has resulted in the integration of SAARC and shows the region is on the right path, Singh said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his address focused on the need to create solutions for the youth of South Asia.

He expressed confidence that the SAARC summit would result in more agreements that will promote trade. Belief in the people is the greatest strength for this region, he opined, urging all members to develop their potential.

The SAARC is an organization of South Asian nations, founded in December 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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