South Asian leaders wrapping up a summit in Colombo have called for joint action against terrorism and more regional trade, according to a draft declaration to be released today. The eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) called for collective action to combat "all forms of terrorist violence" that was threatening their "peace, stability and security". Leaders agreed to implement a regional trade pact - signed in 1995 but never fully implemented - "in letter and in spirit" to ensure a free flow of goods and services between the region of 1.5 billion people.
SAARC, which groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, noted the urgent need to develop energy and food security, according to the eight-page declaration to be adopted today. "The heads of state or governments stressed the urgent need to develop the regional hydro potential, grid connectivity and gas pipelines," according to the draft. Leaders also agreed to look at cutting international telephone call charges within the region, to foster closer economic ties.
Formed in 1985, SAARC has achieved few results, with each of its annual meetings invariably being overshadowed by tensions between India and Pakistan. *AFP