SAARC leaders call for regional cooperation

08:24, April 29, 2010      

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Leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Wednesday called for cooperation among the member states in such sectors as climate change, anti-terrorism and trade to make their people happy and prosperous.

Terming the 16th SAARC summit, which opened here Wednesday, as a historical event, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley called for urgent action with innovation, courage and sacrifice with a sense of responsibility for future generation to protect environment which will make the whole region happy and prosperous in future.

As the theme of the summit reflects "Towards a green and happy South Asia", Thinley hoped for common efforts from member states to address the hot issue of global warming which is creating threats of glacial outburst and rise of sea level.

In his opening remarks at the summit, Thinley who has been elected as new Chairman of SAARC forwarded the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) conceived by former Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. "For over three decades, our development process has been guided by the philosophy of GNH which establishes happiness as the ultimate purpose of development," said Thinley.

Likewise, as an outgoing SAARC Chairman, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha stressed on SAARC working for the welfare and socio-economic advancement of the people of the region. "It has been and remains a crucial factor in forging closer links among our governments and more importantly among our people," Rajapaksha said.

Addressing the opening session of the summit, Singh highlighted the achievement made by SAARC and said, "In these two and half decades our sub-continent has been witnessed much progress. Yet each one of our countries, and our region as a whole has a long way to go in fulfilling the aspirations of our people."

Meanwhile, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed stressed on sustainable development in the region and said that SAARC must establish "Low Carbon Center" in the region to counter the adverse impact experiencing by member states. He also proposed to form a regional "Human Rights Mechanism" to protect rights and freedom of the people in the region.

However, Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal hoped of outlining future "road map" for the cooperation between regional countries. He termed SAARC as a regional integrity about greater connectivity and eventually increasing economy. According to M.K. Nepal, some of SAARC members are experiencing threat of climate change despite their least contribution to the phenomena.

He said that Nepal is willing to form an ally of mountainous country in the region and outside. "We are trying to host a ministerial level meeting amid mountainous countries to come up with possible outcome for mitigation, adaptation and capacity building.

On the occasion, Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that "the promise of SAARC can only be realized if we are able to not only deepen our engagement but also benefit from the process of globalization."

"We warmly welcome the presence of Observers in our midst. We must find ways and means to enable these and other interested states and regional organizations to engage substantially with SAARC," he said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Sasina also said though South Asian economies have shown remarkable resilience in the face of recent global meltdown, still they have suffered from economic slowdown, soaring oil and food prices, and climate change.

She proposed to form an International Adaptation and Research Center for recommending adaptive measures.

The summit was attended by leaders from eight SAARC member states and nine other countries as observers.

Some 400 delegates from member states, 60 delegates from observer countries and more than 300 journalists are attending the 16th SAARC summit.

The SAARC, the most important regional alliance, was established on Dec. 8, 1985. It groups eight member states -- Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, Iran, Mauritius, Australia, Myanmar and the European Union have joined SAARC as "Observers".



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