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"Colombo Declaration" calls for united efforts against terrorism
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15:48, August 05, 2008

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The 15th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) successfully concluded its two-day proceedings in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka on Sunday or August 3. The summit discussed and adopted a 41-point Declaration or the "Colombo declaration", which called for united efforts and in-regional connectivity to combat threat posed by terrorism to peace, stability and security of the region, and to eradicate poverty and for energy and environmental protection.

It represents the keynote or the main theme of the summit for SAARC member nations to strengthen their cooperation for peace and their unity for common development. At its opening ceremony, eight heads of state or government first of all "bombarded" terrorism spontaneously. In order to combat terrorism, South Asian nations signed the "SAARC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance".

It expects member countries to grant to each other the "widest possible" measure of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. In compliance with the convention, once a SAARC member nation encounters a terrorist attack, it would provide it with a broad framework for SAARC member states to mutually cooperate and assist in tracking down criminals and freezing their capital, as well as in the investigation and prosecution of crimes, etc.

Analysts here widely acknowledge that the convention has scored the most crucial outcome of the summit meeting and, if it can be carried out truthfully and efficaciously, it would mean a fatal blow to terrorism in the South Asian region.

The main topics at the summit are, among others, to eliminate abject poverty, to resolve (or dissolve) the food and energy crises and to respond to global climate change. The SAARC member nations have a combined population of 1.5 billion, and more than 500 million south Asians currently live in poverty, who account for about half of the needy people worldwide. Since the food and energy crises and global climate change pose the main challenges for the entire globe, and the people of South Asia, instead of escaping or averting them, have suffered most severely as it has a vast population but with a very fragile and weak economic foundation. So the leeaders of SAARC member states all appealed in their addresses at the summit for enhancing the regional cooperation to tide over difficulties, as they have come to acquire an ample understanding of this situation.

Moreover, the SAARC leaders signed the agreement on the establishment of the South Asian Regional Standard Organization and the agreement on Afghanistan's Entry on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), and both accords are of vital significance to economic and trade cooperation in the region. They also inked an agreement on granting Australia and Myanmar (or Burma) the observer status in the SAARC organization.

Meanwhile, the summit meeting agreed to launch a plan for the "SAARC Food Bank" to cope with a food crisis. SAARC member nations have agreed to establish a "SAARC Food Bank" to overcome the possible food crisis. And each member nation also has to build a reserve grain depot by its own efforts in accordance with the plan. In case of a crop failure, it can borrow cereals from other SAARC member nations. The leaders also signed a pact for setting up a "SAARC development fund" of 300 million-US dollars in a bid to prop up the infrastructure development of SAARC member nations. Furthermore, the SAARC members also adopted a three-year "action plan" to jointly fight global climate change.

The SAARC, established in December 1985, has completed 14 summit meetings and come into the world arena as a peaceful, regional and non-political organization, which was formed to beef up mutual cooperation among South Asian countries in the economic, social, cultural, science and technological spheres.

The regional bloc, however, used to be pretty hard to accomplish its useful, effective cooperation among its member nations owing to the once-strained India-Pakistan relations, and it was even tougher and more difficult then for an annual summit to convene as scheduled. Along with the rise of India's economy and the improvement of India-Pakistan ties, however, the SAARC summit has been inclined to be more pragmatic in recent years with some dialogues and cooperation starting to attain positive results.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD overseas resident reporter Ren Yan

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