17th SAARC summit begins today

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The two-day 17th SAARC summit begins here today with Pakistan stating it believes the association of the South Asian countries must lead the way and act as a catalyst for the regional socio-economic transformation.
Heads of states or governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be attending the summit. Representatives from the observer states will also be participating in the moot. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will lead the Pakistan delegation to the summit. The summit was preceded by the Council of Foreign Ministers and meeting of the Standing Committee. The summit will adopt a declaration titled “Building Bridges”, which will focus on issues ranging from physical connectivity in the region to trade, economic, financial and environmental cooperation. In addition, the Secretariat of SAARC Development Fund will also be inaugurated at the summit. Pakistan said it attached great importance to SAARC and had played a proactive role to make SAARC a model of regional cooperation by building economic synergies among the member states. During the summit, Prime Minister Gilani will highlight important issues such as matters pertaining to poverty alleviation, energy cooperation, interaction in agriculture and rural development, cooperation on promotion of welfare of women and children and development of better health facilities for the peoples of South Asia in his key address. At Pakistan’s initiative, Colombo Statement on Food Security was adopted during the 15th SAARC Summit in 2008 and Prime Minister Gilani will urge the heads of state or government to ensure region-wide food security and make South Asia, once again, the granary of the world. Pakistan is of the view that energy cooperation is a driver for cooperation in SAARC leading to economic growth and durable peace in the region. Pakistan introduced the concept of Energy Ring in South Asia which became the vision of SAARC leaders for the attainment of energy security. While lending unconditional support to regional initiatives, Pakistan hoped to further consolidate its bilateral relations with SAARC member countries. Heads of states and governments of the SAARC countries have arrived in Addu City. The opening of the 34th Session of the Council of Ministers was held on Wednesday at the Equatorial Convention Centre. A UNICEF assessment report on the Decade of the Rights of the Child was launched in the session.