M A I N   N E W S

SAARC vows to fight terror
Ajay Kaul

Dhaka, November 12
Delayed twice on account of the tsunami and Nepal crisis, the SAARC Summit opened today, favouring a united fight against terrorism afflicting the region with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making it clear that there should be “zero tolerance” towards the menace.

“No member country should allow its territory to be used against interests of the other member-country,” he said in his speech at the inaugural session of the two-day meeting where Pakistan shed its usual belligerence on the Kashmir issue and instead chose to give a positive projection, reflecting the current thaw in Indo-Pak relations.

The opening saw India offer a slew of concrete proposals to strengthen SAARC, including the facility of daily air services by designated airlines on a reciprocal basis, provision of transit facilities, setting up of a South Asian University and establishment of Regional Food Bank, SAARC High Economic Council and SAARC Museum of Textiles and Handicrafts.

Dr Manmohan Singh and leaders of the host, Bangladesh, along with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives echoed similar views as they talked about the need to re-energise SAARC, which turned 20 this year, and stressed on enhancement of cross-regional linkages in all areas, particularly trade, commerce and free movement of people.

Leaders of all seven-member countries pointed to the recent natural calamities — tsunami and earthquake — and stressed on the need for a joint mechanism to deal with such occurrences in future.

Pakistan significantly sent out positive vibes as its Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz spoke about the improvement of the “political atmosphere” between his country and India and noted that they were engaged in a peace process to resolve all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr Singh and Mr Aziz, outgoing SAARC Chairman, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries after the inaugural session. The two leaders met bilaterally a few hours later to review the Composite Dialogue Process and ongoing cooperation in quake relief work.

Addressing the summit amid intense security arrangements made because of fears of terror attacks, Dr Singh spoke about the problem and said, “It is only in an environment of mutual confidence and a collective commitment against the scourge of terrorism that we can register the progress we desire in more intense interaction.”

He underlined that “no member-country should allow its territory to be used against the interests of another member-country.”


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