KATHMANDU, Nepal: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address at the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday called for a dispute-free South Asia in order to wage a joint fight against poverty, illiteracy, disease and unemployment.
The 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit began in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Wednesday under the theme “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”.
The leaders of the eight-member alliance comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are attending the two-day summit.
The Pakistani premier said that the regional countries should build on convergences and minimize divergences for the mutual good of their people.
Sharif noted that SAARC forum can contribute immensely towards building a trust surplus amongst member countries. He said that interfaith and inter religion harmony must find special emphasis in its programs.
“We should build on our inherent strengths and effectively address common issues such as socio economic disparities, poverty alleviation, women empowerment, health and education,” he said.
“We must place the welfare of our peoples at the forefront,” he said, adding that a close cooperation at national and regional levels is required for this purspose.
Nawaz Sharif pointed out that South Asia has abundant energy resources.
“We need to collectively focus on harnessing indigenous energy production potential. We should also consolidate arrangements for trans-regional oil and gas pipelines,” the premier said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also offered to host the next SAARC Summit in Islamabad.
In his address at the summit, the Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani stressed the need for cooperation instead of confrontation among the member countries. He said that close relations are essential for establishment of peace in the region.
In his remarks, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the regional countries should work together to combat terrorism.
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed said that SAARC food bank and seed bank should be established to ensure food security in the region
The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa underscored the need for SAARC to address the widening disparity between rich and poor, rural and the urban dwellers and create a vibrant economy in the region.
In his remarks, the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala stressed the need of strong regional cooperation to tap the full potentials of South Asia.