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Home > News > PTI

SAARC summit will deal with terror, disaster management

November 09, 2005 15:49 IST

Trade accords would be high on the agenda of the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka where leaders of the seven-nation grouping, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, would focus attention on issues of terrorism, poverty alleviation and initiating regional collaborative projects.

Outlining the goal of the summit scheduled for November 12-13, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Morshed Khan said Dhaka wanted to make the grouping "truly effective".

He said issues to be taken up at the summit include economic uplift to reduce poverty, combating terrorism and development challenges.

"Combating terrorism is a task that South Asia needs to pursue relentlessly," he said and expressed hope that the summit will provide an opportunity to revisit the issue to fine tune the grouping's response to address this major problem.

SAARC groups India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Three accords are likely to be firmed at the two day summit -- Establishment of a SAARC Arbitration Council, Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters and a Limited Multilateral Treaty on Avoidance of Double Taxation.

Indian officials, including Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran are scheduled to arrive today to participate in the SAARC Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries (Nov 9-10).

This would be followed by the meeting of the Council of Ministers (November 11) with India being represented by Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahamed.

India would be tabling a number of new proposals at the meet with a view to usher in the third decade of SAARC and to augment cooperation in sectors like education, textiles, civil aviation, health care and sports. At the summit, India would support Afghanistan's bid to become a new member of SAARC. "We will welcome Afghanistan as a member of SAARC," Ahamed, who leaves for Dhaka tomorrow, said.

Ahamed will go in place of K Natwar Singh who has been divested of the External Affairs Ministry portfolio following a judicial probe into allegations made in the Volcker Committee report on pay offs to him in Iraqi oil deals.

In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said no country can pretend that cross-border terrorism will not affect it internally and that our terrorist could be someone's "freedom fighter". "No government can any longer pretend that what happens across the border is not going to hurt it internally.

Singh was speaking at the P N Haksar memorial lecture in Chandigarh. Without naming any particular country, the prime minister said the destiny of South Asia was inter-linked, be it poverty, disease, natural disasters or the issue of terrorism. Thus, "We must learn to work together to deal with these challenges."

Stressing that it was not just the past but the future too that binds us, the prime minister expressed the hope that member nations in SAARC would approach the forthcoming Summit with this perspective. "I hope we can all approach the SAARC Summit with this perspective in mind, a perspective of inter-dependency that strengthens our collective security and secures our collective prosperity," he said in the run up to the meeting being held in Dhaka on November 12 and 13.

Recognising the need to strengthen cooperation in fighting the scourge of terrorism, the Summit would be stressing on the need for ratification of the Additional Protocol to the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, and call for an early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

In an endorsement of India's stand, the Summit would be recommending reconstitution of the South Asian Development Fund by merging existing and proposed finds into a SAARC Development Fund. This new fund shall utilise India's pledge money of 100 million dollars as part of its initial corpus of 300 million dollars.

The Summit would also underscore the need for putting in place a Regional Response Mechanism regarding disaster preparedness, emergency relief and rehabilitation in view of the recent natural calamities like earthquake and tsunami.

A thick security blanket has been thrown around the capital Dhaka as officials from the seven nations started arriving.

An advance Indian team on Tuesday expressed satisfaction at arrangements made for the upcoming summit by hosts Bangladesh. The team has brought three vehicles along with them. According to sources, 12 members of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's security force Black Cat would arrive on November 11 with a bullet proof jeep for him.

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