Addressing the inaugural session of the SAARC's (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) two-day summit, the heads of states and governments pinpointed growing food shortages, rising fuel prices and climate as a major cause of concern for them. They also called for making SAARC relevant to the people and increasing interaction between inhabitants of the world's sixth most populous region. The focus of the two-day summit, however, was on terrorism because five of the SAARC member states — Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Afghanistan — were among those countries hardest hit by terrorism.
Addressing the summit, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for joint measures to strengthen regional co-operation against terrorism. He also strongly condemned the attack in Kabul on the Indian embassy. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a united fight was needed against violence if the region were to grow. He stressed the need to jointly combat extremism and fanaticism.
“The challenges of terrorism must be overcome in order for us to realise the potential of greater regional integration ... greater economic integration," said, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
He said terrorism was the result of pursuit of narrow-minded geo-political interests, which would not pay off in the long run. Accusing Pakistan of not having done enough to rein in terrorists, he said the “terrorism and terrorist sanctuaries were gaining greater ground there".
Pak Prime Minister Gilani, who did not respond to allegations levelled by Mr Karzai, said “We need to fight terrorism individually as well as collectively."
He expressed the hope that forthcoming meetings of SAARC police chiefs and interior ministers in Islamabad later this year would focus on strengthening regional cooperation against terrorism.
The Pak PM also welcomed the finalization of the text of the Saarc Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, which he believed could help in fighting terrorism.
In a cautionary note, Bangladesh's Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed said: “The deadly fangs of terrorism are spreading across the region. They threaten to disrupt peace and stability."
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said that no country in the SAARC region had been spared of terrorism plague. His remarks came as Colombo adopted unprecedented security measures with nearly 22,000 police and troops deployed to guard 400 delegates from member states and observer countries.