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17th SAARC summit kicks off in Maldives

(Xinhua)

08:34, November 11, 2011

Photo taken on Nov. 10, 2011 shows the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Addu City of Maldives. 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)

ADDU CITY, Maldives, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- The 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit kicked off here on Thursday with the theme of "Building Bridges - both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue".


At the opening speech, 16th SAARC Chairman and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley said, "I am deeply honored to open the 17th session in the pristine island of Addu. Holding the summit south of the equator is truly a reminder of the vastness of our region and its diversity," said Thinley.

He remarked that Bhutan's chairmanship was a successful one with key developments on food security, renewable energy and establishment of the SAARC campus. He also thanked the South Asian governments for the assistance given to him during his tenure.

This was followed by the inaugural address that was made by Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed said, "I believe that the 21st Century will be Asia's century. I believe that Asia, and South Asia in particular, is becoming more powerful and more prominent than any other time in our history. In short, I believe the future is ours to shape. Our economies are booming. Our political influence is growing. And our ability to shape the course of world affairs has never been stronger."

"Our populations are youthful and energetic. Our thinkers, researchers and scientists are globally renowned. Our culture is internationally acclaimed. Our private sector companies are some of the world's largest and most profitable. For too long, South Asia was considered a sideshow in the theater of global politics. But today, we occupy center stage. The eyes of the world are upon us. This is our time to shine," said Nasheed.

The SAARC region has great wealth, he said, adding that it is possible for the people to have a decent life. He insisted that they want to live in societies of law and order so that they can have a decent life. Growing economies and deepening democracies and ensuring stability is the possibility of south Asia.

"For this we must work together. Economic stagnation in one member nation causes insecurity in another. We must integrate economically and create a political environment that creates security. There are many reasons to be positive Afghanistan remains stable and as a region we must assist them," he said.

President Nasheed said that key aspects, among others, trade and transport connection, economic integration climate change, disaster management, will be the top agenda in the summit.

Nasheed said, "The theme of this summit is building bridges. I hope one of the things we can achieve, at this and future summits is greater integration and co-operation between SAARC countries.

The Republic of Maldives declared "Building Bridges" as the theme for the 17th SAARC Summit.

"Building Bridges - both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue. However, the notion of bridging differences would be represented as the overarching theme of the summit rather than any set diplomatic or development aims," a statement issued by the Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

President Nasheed said, "Today, the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers met in the lovely setting of the Shangri La in the Maldives. These developments are extremely welcome. I hope all political parties in India and Pakistan applaud these encouraging moves. I hope this summit will be enthused with optimism. And I hope both countries can work to resolve their core issues."

Earlier in the day, Indian and Pakistan prime ministers met for talks in what seems to be one of the focal points of the summit. Increasing warmth of relations were observed during the talks between the two parties with hopes for a "new chapter" opening during the next round of talks.

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