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SAARC Summit Thimphu, April 28-29
Consensus on climate change, trade
Ashok Tuteja in Thimphu

The 16th SAARC Summit ended here on Thursday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other South Asian leaders adopting the ‘Thimphu statement’ on climate change, signing an agreement on trade in services and expressing their firm resolve to stamp out terrorism from the region. The next summit would be held in the Maldives in 2011.

SAARC leaders (L/R) Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives), Manmohan Singh (India), Madhav Kumar Nepal (Nepal), Yousuf Raza Gilani (Pakistan), Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh) and Jigme Yoser Thinley (Bhutan) in Thimphu on Thursday.
SAARC leaders (L/R) Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives), Manmohan Singh (India), Madhav Kumar Nepal (Nepal), Yousuf Raza Gilani (Pakistan), Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh) and Jigme Yoser Thinley (Bhutan) in Thimphu on Thursday. — AFP

Facing criticism for the slow pace of development in the region, the SAARC leaders reiterated their commitment to implement the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in letter and spirit to boost intra-regional economic cooperation for the prosperity of their people. The closing ceremony of the summit was attended by leaders from all the eight SAARC countries --- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Representatives of nine observer countries —Mauritius, South Korea, China, Japan, Iran, the US, the EU, Australia and Myanmar —were also present.

The seven-page ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration-Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’’ emphasised the importance of reducing dependence on high-carbon technologies for economic growth and hoped promotion of climate resilience will promote both development and poverty eradication in a sustainable manner.

In line with India’s position, the SAARC countries underlined that global negotiations on climate change should be guided by the principles of equity, and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities as enshrined in the UN framework convention and conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. They also underscored the need to initiate the process to formulate a common SAARC position for the Mexico conference on climate change in December. The SAARC leaders agreed to establish an inter-governmental expert group to develop clear policy directions for regional cooperation as envisaged in the SAARC Plan of Action on Climate Change. The leaders directed the SAARC secretary general to commission a study aimed at accreditation of SAARC with the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund as a regional entity for undertaking adaptation projects in South Asia.




Bhutan Diary
Indo-Pak activities dominate summit
By Ashok Tuteja

The script for the SAARC Summit went along expected lines. As in the past, the India-Pakistan engagement on the sidelines of summit once again hogged the limelight. Television crew and media personnel were least interested in covering anything other than getting a sound bite from an Indian or Pakistani VVIP. They were more keen to know whether the Indian and Pakistan PMs shook hands at the summit or the dinner hosted for them.

PM, Gilani staying metres away

Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani are neighbours even at the SAARC Summit. The two leaders have been housed in cottages just metres away from each other at the SAARC Village here. Journalists are speculating if it is a trick by Bhutan to force the two leaders to meet each other as often as possible during their stay.

Scribes a dejected lot

It was a big disappointment for Indian journalists invited to a media dinner by the Bhutan government last night. They were sitting on their computers completing their stories for the day when they were reminded about the dinner. But once they reached the venue, they realised that journalists from other countries, particularly Bangladesh and Pakistan, had gulped down all the liquor to the last drop and the food was also almost finished.

Memorial built by India

In the midst of mountains in Bhutan, one was surprised to find a beautiful memorial created for Bhutanese soldiers. The memorial has been built by India at Dochu La pass, some 35 km from Thimphu, as a sign of its gratitude to the Bhutanese soldiers who lost their lives fighting ULFA militants in Bhutan. 





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