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Leaders agree to enhance cooperation

Haroon Habib

Two-day SAARC Summit concludes

  • Poverty Alleviation Fund to be set up
  • Leaders express determination to fight terrorism

    DHAKA: The 13th Summit of the seven-member regional forum, South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), ended here on Sunday, with the leaders agreeing to realise the vision of the South Asian Economic Union in a phased and planned manner. They agreed to draw a road map for enhanced cooperation.

    In the 8-page "Dhaka Declaration," the leaders directed all SAARC institutions and mechanisms to work collectively towards a decade dedicated to the implementation of the plans.

    While this would enable SAARC to realise its basic objective of improving the quality of life of South Asian people, it would also create an enabling environment for the establishment of a South Asian Economic Union, they stated.

    They directed the standing committee to formulate its recommendations at its next special session, on a Vision for SAARC's Third Decade and the course of action.

    In the Declaration, the seven Heads of State and Government decided to establish a SAARC Poverty Alleviation Fund (SPAF) with contributions both voluntary and assessed.

    They decided to declare 2006-2015 the SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation.The leaders welcomed the signing of three agreements during the 13th Summit. They are: the Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters, the Agreement on the Establishment of SAARC Arbitration Council and the limited Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.

    The leaders agreed to promote cooperation in an environment of enduring peace and stability and reiterated their commitment to sovereign equality, territorial integrity and national independence, non-use of force, non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states.

    They also underscored theneed to ensure universal adherence to the principles and objectives in the U.N. Charter, their full support for a comprehensive approach to implementation of the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals, ensuring global peace and security and reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen the multilateral trade regime of the WTO.

    The Heads of State and Government welcomed the request of Afghanistan for membership and agreed in principle to the desire of China and Japan to become SAARC observers.

    The leaders expressed their determination to unite in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and referred to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).

    Effective instrument

    They reiterated their pledge to make SAARC an effective instrument for cooperation which will visibly improve the quality of life. They agreed to broaden the Association's engagements with civil society organisations, professional groups, entrepreneurs and urged the member states to promote and assert their South Asian identity, encourage greater people-to-people contact and draw strength from their shared cultural heritage.

    The Heads of State and Government stressed on taking the process of regional economic integration further by expanding SAFTA's scope to include trade in services, enhanced investment and harmonised standards.

    They also agreed to set up the SAARC Energy Centre in Islamabad.

    The declaration affirmed the leaders' strong resolve to work together to address trafficking of women and children.

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