SAARC summit begins in Kathmandu

Venue of the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu.
Venue of the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on Wednesday called for greater integration among South Asian countries to bolster growth.

The prime minister said at the opening of the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that collective resources need to be better used to reduce high levels of poverty in the region.

“Our region is blessed with resources which however need to be distributed equitably. One fifth of the world population can transform the future but need to be provided with enabling policies to unlock their potential,” he said.

PM Tobgay also called for fighting climate change, human and drugs trafficking in the border areas of the region. He also called for fighting poverty and terrorism, which he said were the other major challenges in the region.

Welcoming all the heads of state and government in his inauguration speech, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala stressed on the need of exploring the abundant opportunities that lies in the region. Koirala also called for making SAARC more powerful and meaningful region.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff stressed on bringing China to the SAARC region to make it more inclusive and called for unity among the SAARC members to fight poverty and terrorism in the region by erasing the bitter past memories.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his happiness to be in the birth country of Gautam Buddha. Pointing terrorism as the prime challenge in the region, Rajapaksa said people with extremist view were affecting the lives of peace-loving citizens in the region. He also expressed the country’s readiness to lend any kind of support for regional unity.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on increasing the trade and air relation among the member countries adding the need of mutual cooperation, investment and assistance to cope with every adversity including terrorism.

Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina said fighting climate change was the major challenge of Bangladesh and the country had come up with National Climate Change Strategy to combat the same. She also pointed on focusing on the result-oriented programmes and called for coordination among the member countries to focus on poverty, food and nutritional security, quality education, sustainable development, empowerment of women, among others, in the days to come.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai called for making investments in Afghanistan to improve infrastructure in the country. He also stressed on the need of promoting women’s participation in the region.

Maldives President Abdullah Yameen said that the regional association needs to review its priorities and goals, and the ultimate reason for which it was established. He also called for improving trade ties between member countries to alleviate poverty in the region.

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