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India highlights need for SAARC to introspect

April 25, 2010 17:41 IST

India on Sunday highlighted the need for SAARC to introspect on its 25-year-long experience and chart out a course to accelerate the momentum that has been achieved in the recent past.

Addressing the SAARC Standing Committee meeting in Thimphu, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said that SAARC has evolved into a service provider for the economic and development needs of the people of the region.

"At the same time, this milestone also provides us with an opportunity to introspect on the experience of the last 25 years and the course we need to chart in the future not only to maintain, but to accelerate, the momentum SAARC has achieved in the recent past," she said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave New Delhi for Bhutan on Wednesday to attend the two-day SAARC Summit to be attended by leaders from seven other member countries -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

A meeting of Foreign Ministers of the member countries will precede the summit.

Two important SAARC agreements on environment and trade in services will be signed during the summit. The pact on trade in services will enable the realisation of the region's immense potential in service areas such as health, hospitality, communications, computer and information services and air transport.

The SAARC Convention on Environment is expected to promote cooperation among member countries in the field of environment and sustainable development.

The Indian side is expected to draw the attention of SAARC on the need to improve regional connectivity through the development of new trade, transport and telecommunication links.

Setting up of common standards and harmonisation of customs procedures, greater people-to-people contacts, particularly among the youth, civil society, cultural personalities, academics and parliamentarians are among other areas to be raised by India.

Rao said SAARC has facilitated slow but sure steps towards greater cooperation in the security sector and in the prevention of trafficking of women and child development.

Each of the areas of cooperation under SAARC has a direct bearing on the lives and livelihoods of the people of the region, the foreign secretary said.

While no structured meeting has been set up between Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, the two leaders are likely to get a chance to meet informally on the margins of the summit.

New Delhi has been maintaining that the Composite Dialogue process with Islamabad can be resumed only if credible steps are taken against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and dismantling of terror infrastructure directed against India.

India has made it clear that dialogue is the only way forward but for resumption of talks Islamabad has to create a conducive atmosphere.

New Delhi is unhappy that Mumbai attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed is "roaming freely" in Pakistan and making whipping up anti-India sentiments.

Sagar Kulkarni in Thimphu
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