The 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit reached fruitful decisions after many discussions during the two-day meeting, Madivian President Mohamed Nasheed said here on Friday.
SAARC member countries have agreed to direct the SAFTA (South Asuab Free Trade Agreement) Ministerial Council to intensify efforts to reduce the sensitive list as well as reduce non-tariff barriers to trade, Nasheed said in the closing address.
Nasheed said SAARC nations have also agreed to direct the finance ministers to chart a proposal to allow more financial flows and investments.He said the SAARC secretary general has been instructed to ensure the final preparations for the Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Service are completed this year.
Other efforts have also been made to promote communication between SAARC countries. The president said they have agreed to conclude the Regional Railways Agreement and convene the Expert Group Meeting on Motor Vehicles Agreement before the next Council of Ministers.
The establishment of a South Asian Postal Union has also been agreed, said Nasheed.
On security issues, Nasheed said they have reached an agreement on the Rapid Response to Natural Disasters and agreed to initiate work on combating maritime piracy in the region.
He said all SAARC countries have agreed that they will spend an appropriate proportion of their national income on renewable energy technologies, subject to approval of national arrangements.
He said they have agreed to convene an expert group meeting to discuss a regional mechanism to empowerment of women and promote gender equality in the region.
The SAARC Summit concluded here on Friday with the adoption of Addu Declaration. The declaration, jointly adopted by the eight SAARC member countries, reaffirms their commitment to peace, confidence building, liberty, human dignity, democracy, mutual respect, good governance and human rights.
Founded in 1985, the SAARC is an organization of eight South Asian nations, namely: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
The declaration reviews their commitment to alleviate poverty and reduce income inequalities within the societies and reaffirms their resolve to improve quality of life and well-being of their people through people-centered sustainable development.
In the declaration, SAARC member countries show their concerns about the continuing threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, transnational organized crimes, especially illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, trafficking in persons and small arms and increased incidents of maritime piracy in the region; and reiterating their resolve to fight all such menaces.
The declaration says that the countries are aware the environmental degradation and particular vulnerabilities of the region to the threat of climate change and recognize the need to further strengthen the institutional mechanisms of SAARC in order to bolster and enhance regional cooperation.
Foreign ministers from SAARC member countries have signed the agreements on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Confirmity Assessment, Implementation of Regional Standards and Seed Bank.
On Thursday, Indian and Pakistan prime ministers met for talks in what seems to be one of the focal points of the summit. Increasing warmth of relations were observed during the talks between the two parties with hopes for a "new chapter" opening during the next round of talks.
At the opening ceremony of the Summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for all SAARC countries to work together to eliminate terrorism. "Terrorism presents an enormous challenge to the people and SAARC needs to work together to eliminate this menace," he said.
SAARC can also work together to promote culture and arts that can be used to promote tourism in the region. He welcomed a consideration to establish dialogue with partners to promote the travel industry.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to promote fair trade in the region. He spoke positively of the progress made in SAARC terming it as "impressive" and pointed out that many sectors including trade, transport, health and education have benefited from it. "Our summit is taking place at a time when the West is having an economic crisis. In the meantime developing countries like ours will be squeezed for capital and markets and we should look for innovative solutions within South Asian region," he said.
Development within countries would attract foreign investors and freeing of trade between SAARC members would create benefit for all nations.
South Asia has been able to maintain a respectable growth rate and this encouraging trend has resulted in the integration of SAARC and shows the region is on the right path, Singh said.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his address at the opening ceremony of the SAARC Summit focused on the need to create solutions for the youth of South Asia.
The 17th SAARC Summit's theme is "Building Bridges"-- both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue.
Chairman of 17th SAARC Summit and Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed announced that 18th SAARC Summit is to be held in Nepal.