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**President’s Speech at 11th SAARC Summit **

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    **President’s Speech at 11th SAARC Summit **

    Presidents Speech at 11th SAARC Summit (Kathmandu, Jan 5, 2002)

    Your Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev,
    Distinguished delegates,
    Ladies and gentlemen,

    It is a pleasure for me and the members of my delegation to be in the historic and friendly city of Kathmandu. Allow me to offer to you, Your Majesty, my felicitations on Nepals assumption of the Chairmanship of SAARC.

    Mr. Prime Minister, your comprehensive, wise and thought-provoking address has set the stage for the success of this, the Eleventh SAARC Summit meeting. Your personal commitment to enhanced cooperation among South Asian countries provides the perfect inspiration to our deliberations.

    I would also like to pay a special tribute to the late King of Nepal, His Majesty Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, one of the founding fathers of SAARC. His contribution to the establishment and the growth of our Association will be long remembered. We will be honouring the memory of the late King by placing SAARC, during the Kathmandu Summit, on an irreversible path of cooperation, peace and progress for the people of South Asia.

    We are grateful to His Excellency Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal and the Government of Nepal for the cordial reception, generous hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for the Summit. I wish to convey our deep appreciation to the outgoing Chairperson, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka for steering SAARC during a particularly difficult period. Her abiding commitment to SAARC and her resolve to revive the Association have been a source of strength for all of us. This is also the appropriate moment to express our thanks and appreciation to His Excellency Mr Nihal Radrigo, the outgoing Secretary General for the dedication with which he has been discharging his important responsibilities. I wish him success in future.

    I would like to extend a cordial welcome to the new Secretary General of SAARC, Mr. Q.A.M.A Rahim from the brotherly country of Bangladesh. His previous association with SAARC, his long experience in the diplomatic service of his country and his extensive knowledge of South Asian affairs, make him ideally suitable for this job. We wish him a successful tenure.
    Your Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen, It is a matter of great satisfaction for my government that the 11th Summit is finally taking place. There have been instances of postponement of SAARC Summits in the past. However, this time, we have witnessed an unprecedented delay of more than two years. It is unfortunate that the delay was caused by factors extraneous to both the Association and its Charter. We need to make certain that SAARC stays on course. SAARC Summits once scheduled,after obtaining the concurrence of all the member states, must go ahead even if the heads of State or Government of one or two members do not find it convenient to attend. No member should be allowed to hold SAARC to ransom.

    Using internal developments in one member state to disrupt the SAARC process should be unacceptable. We must also oppose any attempt to dilute the principle of sovereign equality of member states. In this joint endeavour we are all equal partners. The stark reality is that SAARC has not been able to develop to its full potential. The vision that led to the creation of SAARC has not been translated into reality. A region that gave birth to many sages who upheld the cherished goals of peace and harmony; a region that is home to some of the oldest human civilizations and a region that takes pride in the diversity and beauty of its cultural heritage, has in the modern era failed to resolve its many contradictions, differences and tensions. We need to bring to bear the wisdom, sagacity, tolerance and sense of justice of ages in which we take so much pride to resolve our problems.

    SAARCs performance so far, in comparison with other regional organizations, has been dismal. While SAARC limps along, organizations like the European Union and ASEAN, have galloped ahead. The national leaders in these organizations had a vision for their peoples and their regions. They worked with commitment and with sincerity to resolve potential issues, while embarking on the road to economic integration. We should learn from their experience. All problems that afflict our region must be sincerely addressed and resolved. Sweeping them under the carpet does not make them go away. The only wise and courageous choice is to resolve all disputes and differences on a durable basis. And only those solutions which are based on justice and fair-play can be durable.

    Our seriousness and sincerity about making SAARC a genuine agent for cooperation and economic integration among South Asian countries, will be judged by our determination and ability to resolve bilateral disputes. The proposal to devise a SAARC mechanism to address all issues was informally taken up at the 9th and the 10th Summits at Male and Colombo respectively. The declarations of our intent to promote peace and to resolve differences amicably should be translated into concrete action. It is not only Pakistan that has bilateral differences. Other countries also have this problem. We cannot afford to remain frozen if we want to present a unified face to the world, and if we genuinely want to make SAARC a strong, potent and effective organization.

    Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

    South Asia is not only one of the least economically integrated regions, it is also one of the least developed. We need to overcome the challenges of our development, poverty, income inequalities, unemployment, economic and social deprivation, high mortality and low literacy. If South Asia remains mired in problems, the world will gradually lose interest in our region. Indeed there already are signs that this is happening. South Asias share of capital inflows to the developing world declined from 7% in the 1980s to 3% in the 1990s. This lack of investor confidence in this region, in the era of globalization when Official Development Assistance is shrinking and capital flows are market driven, is due primarily to the atmosphere of uncertainty and absence of peace and stability in our region. We have the highest number of people living below the poverty line in the world. Half a billion South Asians experienced a decline in their incomes during the last decade. This certainly was not the vision that inspired the founding fathers of SAARC to establish this organization.

    The Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) provides the foundation for greater economic co-operation, leading ultimately to economic integration. The SAPTA, process still remains incomplete because of mutual mistrust and the absence of a level playing field. In view of our experience with SAPTA, moves towards a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) should be carefully evaluated to protect the interests of the smaller countries of the region. It would not be appropriate to embark on the road to SAFTA without completing a comprehensive study on all aspects of this very complex venture. However, it is gratifying that member countries are already in the process of translating the SAARC Social Charter into action. The Group of Eminent Persons has made a number of valuable recommendations for improving SAARCs performance and profile. An in-depth discussion at the pre-Summit meetings on the implications of these recommendations and their practicability has already been held. These recommendations would be instrumental in imparting greater dynamism and substance to SAARC.

    The plight of women in our region calls for focused attention and determined action for the amelioration of their condition. The children in South Asia also continue to suffer because of economic and social backwardness. No civilised society can afford to ignore the welfare of its women and children. The SAARC Conventions on Combating the Trafficking of women and children and on the Welfare of Child and designed to help member countries in taking necessary measures for the fulfillment of their obligations towards these two vulnerable segments of our society. These needs to be fully implemented. We have noted with satisfaction that the Commerce Ministers of SAARC met in New Delhi last year to evolve a common position on WTO issues. Similar cooperation on other issues of shared concern needs to be encouraged.

    Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I would like to say a few words about the conduct of business in SAARC. With the world becoming smaller and infinitely more complex, government leaders and officials have less time available to them to address the vast array of issues before them. There is thus an increasing requirement to utilize our time and resources in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.SAARC procedures and practices have been significantly simplified over the years. However, there is a need to keep these under constant review. I would propose a reconsideration of the duration and format of Summit and other meetings in order to making them more business like. While adding substance, form should be reduced. The exchanges at the Retreat should be allocated more time, perhaps ceremonies may be curtailed. The Standing Committee may bemandated to make concrete recommendations in this context.

    Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Our meeting is taking place in new year, a new century, a new millennium and also a new world after the terrorist attacks of 11th September last year. Pakistan condemned those terrorist attacks and joined the international coalition in the campaign against terrorism. Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism. We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We regard terrorism as a grave threat to civil society. We abhor violence. We are determined to eliminate terrorism and therefore, fully implement the SAARC Convention for Combating Terrorism.

    However, a concerted campaign against terrorism must also identify and examine the causes that breed terrorism, that drive people to hopelessness and desperation. We cannot address only the symptoms and leave the malaise aside. It is equally important that a distinction is maintained between acts of legitimate resistance and freedom struggles on the one hand and acts of terrorism on the other. We need to do much more to realize the potential of SAARC. However, not much can be achieved as long as there is tension and hostility among any two of the members. It was with the objective of dissipating and reducing tension that I undertook the journey to Agra last July. My Government remains ready to engage in a serious and sustained dialogue with India at all times and all levels. Peace and tranquility between Pakistan and India are essential for progress in South Asia.