New Delhi, July 31 : Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today said that in the 23 years since SAARC was established, the South Asian region has traversed a long distance.
"Today, there is a realization amongst SAARC countries that it is only by cooperating within SAARC that we will be able to strengthen ourselves individually and as a region and address the many common challenges that face us," he said in a statement before his departure to Sri Lanka to attend 15th SAARC summit.
"At the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi, we had agreed to move SAARC from a phase of declaration to a phase of implementation and action. As part of this approach, several initiatives have been taken, notably the establishment of the SAARC Development Fund, the SAARC Food Bank, the proposal to establish a South Asian University, SAFTA and greater people-to-people contacts," the Prime Minister said.
"I am confident that the forthcoming Summit will consolidate these gains and provide an impetus to the implementation of the many decisions that are in place," he added.
Dr Singh also said that he is looking forward to hold discussions with President Mahinda Rajapakse on India and Sri Lanka relations as well as hold bilateral meetings with the other leaders of the SAARC countries.