SAARC calls for ’strongest cooperation’ to wage war on terror

August 3rd, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
Colombo, Aug 3 (IANS) The 15th SAARC summit ended here Sunday with calls by its eight member states to step up “strongest possible cooperation” against terrorism as well as to urgently develop regional hydro potential, grid connectivity and gas pipelines for energy security. A declaration adopted by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at the end of a two-day summit also warned that rising oil prices were threatening the hugely populous region’s energy security as well as economic growth.

“They (SAARC leaders) stressed the urgent need to develop the regional hydro potential, grid connectivity and gas pipelines,” it said. “They noted that the possibility of evolving an appropriate regional inter-governmental framework may be explored to facilitate such endeavour.”

The declaration was unanimously approved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other South Asian leaders at the closing event at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall.

The two-day event, which virtually shut down Colombo for three days, brought together Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives, Prime Ministers G.P. Koirala of Nepal, Jigmey Thinley of Bhutan and Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan as well as Fakruddin Ahmed, chief advisor of the caretaker Bangladesh government.

As reflected in the speeches by SAARC leaders Saturday, the declaration placed great emphasis on the need to fight terrorism. It condemned “all forms of terrorist violence” and expressed deep concern over the “serious threat posed by terrorism to the region”.

The SAARC leaders reiterated their commitment to strengthening the legal regime against terrorism, including by undertaking to implement all international conventions relating to combating terrorism.

“They emphasized the need for strongest possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.”

The declaration observed that an effective and economic regional tele-communication regime “is an essential factor of connectivity, encouraging the growth of people-centric partnerships”.

It also called for a uniformly applicable low tariff for international direct dial calls within South Asia.

The next meeting of the SAARC summit is scheduled to be held in the Maldives. The Maldives was to have hosted the 15th summit but backed off at the eleventh hour, enabling Sri Lanka to play the host.

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