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May 1st, 2010

SAARC needs to challenge itself: PM

Leaders of SAARC

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region that is home to a fourth of the human race needed to challenge itself for further development, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said on April 28.

"In looking back at the 25 years (of SAARC), we can claim the glass is half full and compliment ourselves, or we can admit the glass is half empty and challenge ourselves," Dr. Singh said in his address at the 16th SAARC summit.

Prime Minister's full address at the SAARC Summit:

"At the outset, I wish to congratulate His Excellency the Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley for his election as Chairperson of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. I assure him of India's fullest support.

I also take this opportunity to convey our deepest appreciation to His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the Royal Government of Bhutan for the excellent arrangements made for the Summit. It is a singular pleasure for me to visit Bhutan once again and to experience its pristine beauty and the warmth of its people.

I wish to welcome the two new Observer countries, Australia and Myanmar, to the SAARC fraternity.

This is a historic Summit. This year we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of our organization. This is also the first time that we meet in Bhutan.

In the last few years Bhutan has witnessed momentous changes, and I take this opportunity to wish its people even greater prosperity, peace and progress.

Speaking at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka in 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi described the establishment of SAARC as an act of faith. Based on our experience so far we can affirm that this was also an act of great foresight and statesmanship.

In these two and a half decades our sub-continent has been witness to much progress. Yet, each one of our countries, and our region as a whole, has a long way to go in fulfilling the aspirations of our people.

In looking back at these two and a half decades we can claim the glass is half full, and compliment ourselves, or, we can admit the glass is half empty and challenge ourselves.

I believe we should challenge ourselves by acknowledging that the glass of regional cooperation, regional development and regional integration is half empty.

Intra-regional trade flows have grown and transport and telecommunication links have expanded.

Yet, the share of intra-regional trade and investment flows in total trade and investment flows in South Asia is far below what we see in East and Southeast Asia.

Continued on Page 2

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India and Afghanistan to fight terror jointly

Prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai

Underlining its unwavering commitment to reconstruction of Afghanistan, India on April 26 cautioned Afghan President Hamid Karzai against any move to integrate the Taliban and vowed to jointly combat terrorism that threatens the entire region.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh met Karzai in New Delhi and discussed a host of issues impinging on peace and stability in Afghanistan. Later the two leaders held a joint press conference.

Following is Dr. Singh's statement to the media:

"It is a great honour for me to welcome His Excellency President Hamid Karzai to India on his first visit to India after his re-election as President.

I have had extremely productive discussions with President Karzai. We discussed a broad range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest. We exchanged views on regional cooperation in the context of forthcoming SAARC Summit and our common vision of freer and more unfettered regional trade and transit. Greater economic integration has the potential of transforming our region.

India and Afghanistan enjoy a strategic partnership based on unique historical and civilisational bonds and shared goals. I conveyed to President Karzai our deep admiration for his courageous leadership in difficult times, and our support to the Government and people of Afghanistan as they build a strong, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.

Continued on Page 2

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