SAARC has opened new windows of cooperation: Manmohan Singh

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Thimphu (Bhutan), Apr 28 (ANI): Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said South Asian countries have opened up new windows of cooperation, and added that the SAARC Development Fund, the Food Bank, the South Asian Free Trade Agreement and the South Asian University are examples of new institutions that will knit our region more closely together.

"We have opened new windows of cooperation. The SAARC Development Fund, the Food Bank, the South Asian Free Trade Agreement and the South Asian University are examples of new institutions that will knit our region more closely together," said Dr Singh in his opening statement at the two-day XVIth SAARC Summit that began here today.

"The challenge before us is to translate institutions into activities, conventions into programmes, official statements into popular sentiments. Declarations at summits and official level meetings do not amount to regional cooperation or integration. Regional cooperation should enable freer movement of people, of goods, of services and of ideas," he added.

Dr Singh said the regional cooperation would help the South Asian countries re-discover the shared heritage and build a common future.

"We must ask ourselves what kind of South Asia we wish to create for our present and future generations? At this anniversary Summit we should renew our compact to build a region that is better connected, better empowered, better fed and better educated," said Dr Singh.

"By rising to this challenge we will not only help ourselves but also become a net contributor to global economic and social prosperity. We can once again become part of global trading routes and networks. We can influence the global discourse on issues of concern to us. If we do not, we run the risk of being marginalized and suffering from stagnation," he added.

"We are able to cooperate individually as members in various international fora. But it is unfortunate that, together, the people of South Asia do not have the voice they should and could have in the global polity. The 21st century cannot be an Asian century unless South Asia marches ahead and marches ahead together," said Dr Singh.

"There is perhaps no region more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than ours. Bhutan has led by example in combining development with conservation of the environment. It is therefore most appropriate that our Summit focuses on this important issue," he added.

Dr Singh focused on regional cooperation to improve the quality of governance.

"Regional cooperation can be a significant multiplier in improving the quality of governance in managing our natural resources, in preventing land and water degradation and in strengthening our food, water and energy security," said Dr Singh. (ANI)

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