South Asia News
South Asian heads of state continue talks in Sri Lanka
Aug 3, 2008, 10:27 GMT
Colombo - Heads of state of eight South Asian nations ended Sunday bilateral talks ahead of the conclusion of a two-day regional summit where they focused on a range of issues including terrorism, the food situation and the environment.
The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) summit opened on Saturday with bilateral meetings between the heads of state ending Sunday at noon at the parliamentary complex on the outskirts of the capital.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, Maldives President Abdul Gayoom, Bangladesh Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were in attendance as was Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa on Saturday took over chairmanship of SAARC and will lead the grouping until the next session is held.
The closing session of the summit opened in Colombo Sunday where the eight countries were due make a final declaration on the understandings and agreements reached between the countries.
The bilateral talks between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers held on Saturday night have been among those which have drawn attention.
The July 7 terrorist attack on the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul and the ceasefire violations across the Line of Control in the disputed territory of Kashmir were issues discussed by the two leaders, The Sunday Times reported.
The meeting between the two leaders is the first since a new government was formed in Pakistan in March this year.
India's Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told journalists that the Pakistani prime minister had assured him Pakistan would launch an investigation into the Kabul bombing.
'For the past four years we have been working to normalize relations with Pakistan, but recent events have cast a shadow. However, there is determination on both sides to move forward beyond the recent incidents and work towards a return to the track,' Menon said.
Meanwhile Pakistani Premier Gilani told journalists he was scheduled to take up the issue of the Indian embassy bombing with Afghan President Karzai on Sunday.
Most of the leaders of the eight nations emphasized the need to combat terrorism in the region at the opening sessions.
Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa called for regional co-operation in combating terrorism and instability in the region, saying 'there are not good terrorists and bad terrorists. We need to eliminate terrorism.'
One of the proposals that has come during the summit is the setting up of a food bank to be utilized in times of crisis, including global food scarcity and natural disasters.
The Sri Lankan capital has been placed under tight security cover for the summit with more than 20,000 police and soldiers deployed. Tamil rebels declared an unilateral truce from July 26 to August 4, but the government rejected the truce.