SAARC will help member countries face common challenges: PM

August 1st, 2008 - 12:33 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) Cooperation among the SAARC countries helps strengthen each member country individually and also the South Asian grouping to address the commonly faced challenges, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday on the eve of his two-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend the SAARC summit. “In the 23 years since SAARC was established, the South Asian region has traversed a long distance,” he said. The prime minister leaves early Friday for Colombo.

“Today, there is a realization amongst SAARC countries that it is only by cooperating within SAARC that we will be able to strengthen ourselves individually and as a region and address the many common challenges that face us,” he said.

“At the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi, we had agreed to move SAARC from a phase of declaration to a phase of implementation and action,” he added.

He said that as part of the approach “several initiatives have been taken, notably the establishment of the SAARC Development Fund, the SAARC Food Bank, the proposal to establish a South Asian University, SAFTA and greater people-to-people contacts.”

“I am confident that the forthcoming Summit will consolidate these gains and provide an impetus to the implementation of the many decisions that are in place,” he added.

The prime minister said he looked forward to holding discussions with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on India’s relations with Sri Lanka. He said bilateral meetings with other leaders of the SAARC countries will also be held.

He is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Colombo Saturday.

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