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PM arrives in Colombo for SAARC summit

August 01, 2008 10:18 IST
Last Updated: August 01, 2008 14:44 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] arrived in Colombo on Friday to attend the two-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit beginning on Saturday.

Singh was received by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on his arrival at the Bhandarnaike International Airport in Colombo.

Singh is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the summit and is likely to convey India's concerns over the recent spurt in cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations.

The two-day summit will consider a regional framework for cooperation in tackling terrorism amid India's keenness for having a legal mechanism for effectively dealing with the menace.

India maintains that terrorism was a common threat that needs to be dealt collectively by all the SAARC nations.

New Delhi [Images] contends that a crime free atmosphere was essential for the growth of all the countries of the region.

On the eve of his visit to Colombo, Singh pitched for cooperation among SAARC member countries to face the 'common challenges'.

"Today, there is a realisation amongst SAARC countries that it is only by cooperating within SAARC that we will be able to strengthen ourselves individually and as a region and address the many common challenges that face us," he said in a statement.

The meet will also discuss how to deal with the scourge of terrorism that was affecting several of the eight member countries, particularly India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka [Images] and Pakistan. Besides these countries, SAARC also comprises Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives [Images] and Bhutan.

Referring to the 14th SAARC Summit held in New Delhi last year, Singh said that the member states of the grouping had agreed to move the regional body from a 'phase of declaration to a phase of implementation and action'.

India is pressing for the legal framework for cooperation in tackling terrorism, particularly in the wake of the July 7 Kabul attack, which has trans-national linkages.

Displaying India's keenness to firm up such a mechanism, the Cabinet last week gave its approval for authorising the Ministry of External Affairs to negotiate and finalise the text of the convention during the upcoming SAARC meet.

The regional legal treaty was discussed at the last Summit but it could not be finalised because of Pakistan's opposition to the extradition clause.

Leaders of the SAARC countries will also seek to enhance cooperation in various other fields like food security, energy security, connectivity, healthcare and education.

Deliberations on food and energy security will be significant in view of the increasing prices of eatables and fuels.

The upcoming summit is expected to see progress on the proposal for setting up a SAARC Food Bank aimed at meeting the requirements of the member countries in the time of need.

The summit will also discuss ways to push the implementation of connectivity, the theme of the last year's meet.

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