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'Addu Declaration' calls for peace in South Asia

12 November, 2011

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ADDU: The 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit concluded here on Friday adopting a very promising 20-point agenda reaffirming its commitment to peace, confidence building, liberty, dignity, democracy, mutual respect, good governance and protection of human rights.

The summit ended with pledges to increase regional trade as arch rivals India and Pakistan demonstrated signs of easing tensions between them. Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed said the eight member grouping agreed to increase trade and economic cooperation through a string of agreements, including one on railways and motor vehicles.

There were no specific deadlines, but Nasheed said their foreign ministers were asked to work on timelines and other details. They also agreed to set up a mechanism to deal with piracy in the Indian Ocean. The member countries also renewed their firm commitment to alleviate poverty and reduce income inequalities within their societies and reaffirmed its resolve to improve the quality of life and well-being of their people through people-centred sustainable development.

The summit through the "Addu Declaration" also expressed its deep concern about the continuing threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, transnational organised crimes, especially illegal trafficking in narcotics drugs, and trafficking in persons and small arms, and increased incidents of maritime piracy in the region and reiterated its resolve to fight all such menaces.

The summit also expressed concern on the environmental degradation and vulnerabilities of the region to the threat of climate change. It also emphasised the need to further strengthen the institutional mechanism of SAARC in order to bolster and enhance regional cooperation. The summit welcomed the signing of SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Seed Bank, SAARC Agreement on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment and the SAARC Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards.

Through the declaration, the summit recognised the importance of the full implementation of SAFTA as a measure towards the creation of an enabling economic environment in the region. The declaration also called for SAARC finance ministers to prepare a proposal that would allow greater flow of financial capital and intra-regional long term investment.

The member states also emphasised the need to conclude Regional Railways Agreement and to convene the Export Group Meeting on the Motor Vehicles Agreement before the next session of Council of Ministers and conduct a demonstration run of a container train among Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

The summit of the eight-member bloc was overshadowed by a meeting between the Indian and Pakistan prime ministers who vowed a "new chapter" in their tense relations. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani said their next round of talks should be "far more productive" and "far more practical-orientated and "far more positive." Nasheed welcomed the easing in tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals and saw it as a boost to the SAARC, which also includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.

Moreover, China is seeking an active role in the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an official said Friday, in a move likely to be resisted by India.

The eight-member grouping wrapped up a summit on Friday in the Maldives marked by talks between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, whose leaders spoke of a "new chapter" in relations.

Maldivian officials said China, an observer along with the United States, Japan and the European Union, was expecting a higher profile as a "dialogue partner" in the light of Beijing's increased strategic interest in many South Asian states.

Hectic behind-the-scenes moves were under way over China's bid to elevate its status, diplomatic sources told AFP, adding that Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka appeared in favour.

End.

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