Address of the Prime Minister of Pakistan,
Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at the 15th SAARC Summit
|Saturday, August 02,
President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
Your Excellencies the Heads of State and
Governments of SAARC Member States,
Distinguished Representatives of Observers,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour for me to represent the
Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the
fifteenth SAARC Summit. I wish to
congratulate you, Mr. President, on your
assumption of the office of the Chairperson
of SAARC. We are confident that under your
dynamic leadership, SAARC will move rapidly
towards realization of its cherished goals.
I assure you of Pakistan's full support to
your endeavours in this direction.
We are thankful to the people and the
Government of Sri Lanka for the warm welcome
and the gracious hospitality extended to us
since our arrival in this beautiful city.
I avail myself of this opportunity to
express our deep gratitude to His Excellency
Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of
India, for providing excellent leadership to
SAARC during the last one year.
I would also like to thank the Secretary
General, His Excellency Dr. Sheel Kant
Sharma, and his dedicated team, for their
important contribution to the preparatory
work of the Summit.
SAARC Charter bestows upon us the onerous
responsibility to promote the welfare of the
people of South Asia. The theme of the
Summit "Partnership for growth for our
people" is a welcome reminder of our joint
responsibility to place people at the center
of the SAARC process. No society can realize
its full potential without improving the
socio-economic conditions of its people.
We must follow a comprehensive approach,
paying urgent attention to poverty
alleviation. We must also take steps to
ensure full implementation of the SAARC
Social Charter and the SAARC Conventions on
Women and Children.
Economic development of South Asia is
contingent upon assured and inexpensive
availability of energy. The contemporary
global fossil fuel crisis has exacerbated
the need for the South Asia region to look
for alternate energy sources. We must
harness region's indigenous energy
potential, particularly solar, wind, biomass
and hydro energy. We should also envisage a
net-work of intra-regional and
trans-regional oil and gas pipelines, Within
SAARC, an enabling environment for regional
energy cooperation can be facilitated by
concluding a regional framework agreement on
humankind lives here. We have a vast pool of
talent. We have fertile lands and developed
irrigation systems. Our societies are
agrarian. We export agro based products to
the world. Yet, the region faces food
shortages from time to time. Sadly, the
region has to look to the outside world for
its food security. We must address this
issue on priority. We should share and learn
from best practices in the region and
beyond, modernize our irrigation systems,
use appropriate technology, and expand our
agricultural research and resource base.
The contemporary global food CrISiS has
underscored the need for SAARC countries to
develop a comprehensive regional strategy to
ensure food security. This is our common
responsibility to the people of South Asia.
Together with other Asian countries, we
should consider launching a Greater Asia
Food Security Programme.
Pakistan supports greater regional economic
cooperation. In the last two decades, SAARC
has made considerable progress in this area,
including SAFTA. We must enable these
arrangements to deliver real dividends and
create a win-win situation for all. Towards
this end, a number of steps can be taken
including trade facilitation measures,
elimination of non-tariff barriers,
reduction of sensitive lists of member
states, and strengthening of the existing
transportation and communication links
across the region.
Closer cooperation in the area of finance
and banking is essential to promote economic
and commercial cooperation in the region.
Under the mechanism of SAARCFINANCE , the
Governors of the Central Banks of the Member
States can make solid contribution to
improve macro-economic policy coordination.
The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) could
underwrite financial support for important
development projects of mutual benefit to
Historically, the arteries of transport and
communications have enriched this region. As
we attempt to connect our region anew, a
people-centered approach can ensure the
success of our endeavours.
The rich civilizational and cultural
heritage of the people of South Asia is our
shared pride. Our arts and craft, cultural
traditions, diverse landscape, and
magnificent historical monuments are our
invaluable assets" We must give priority to
promoting tourism, including religious and
third country tourism, in our regIOn.
Another pressing issue for SAARC is to
enhance cooperation in the field of
environment. In this regard, the Dhaka
Declaration of the SAARC Environment
Ministers is a welcome step. We must take
appropriate measures to preserve our
environment, including the glaciers of
Himalayas and Karakorum, which are the
largest source of fresh water in the region.
We must also encourage a move towards
project-based cooperation under SAARC. The
focus should be on implementing regional and
subČregional projects in the agreed priority
areas. Each Member State could take one or
two projects as "lead country". We may also
involve SAARC Observers and other
international development institutions in
these efforts. Public-private sector
collaboration should also be another venue
to achieve our development objectives.
The world is facing today the menace of
extremism and terrorism, which has
challenged our entire value system and
impacted our socioČeconomic development.
Though Pakistan has suffered the most,
terrorism afflicts all countries of our
region. It is our joint responsibility to
rid our region of this scourge. We need to
fight terrorism individually as well as
collectively. The forthcoming meetings of
the SAARC Police Chiefs and Home/Interior
Ministers in Islamabad later this year
should focus on strengthening regional
cooperation against terrorism. We welcome
the finalization of the text of the SAARC
Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal
In an interdependent, fast globalizing
world, no regional grouping can hope to
function in isolation. SAARC should develop
positive links with the adjoining regions
and beyond. We must adopt an inclusive
approach. We should be open to mutually
beneficial interactions, especially with our
larger Asian neighbourhood. Such linkages
and interdependencies would create a win-win
I take this opportunity to extend a very
warm welcome to the representatives of the
SAARC Observers present here in this
meeting. We look forward to their valued
contribution towards SAARC programmes,
activities and projects. We also welcome the
interest expressed by Australia and Myanmar
to be associated with our organization as
As we seek to evolve modalities to associate
observers with the work of the Organization,
we should consider the option of granting
"dialogue partnership" status to those
Observer states which wish to deepen their
relationship with SAARC for mutual benefits.
SAARC has to its credit some notable
achievements. We can justifiably take pride
in the progress we have made thus far.
However, we cannot be complacent. We must
recognize in all candidness that the gap
between the promise of SAARC and the reality
of its accomplishment remains wide. We need
concerted efforts to build on areas of
convergence. LeCs minimize divergences and
augment complementarities for the greater
good of the people of this region. Pakistan
for its part will spare no effort to
translate the vision of the SAARC Charter
into a reality.
Greater economic integration is inextricably
linked to the creation of requisite
political climate of peace and stability.
SAARC meetings provide a good opportunity
not only to deepen trust and understanding
but also create the enabling environment for
resolution of political disputes and
Issues. We believe that the imperatives of
South Asia's socio-economic development
demand greater political commitment to build
on convergences and resolve our differences.
Pakistan and India are engaged in a peace
process. Since the induction of elected
government in Pakistan, the peace process
has registered noteworthy progress. Success
of the process will augur well for the
region and SAARC.
It is time to place people at the center of
the SAARC processes. Our people are our
greatest strength. If SAARC becomes relevant
to the lives of our people, we could be
assured of our success.
As we look ahead, let the Colombo Summit be
remembered as the turning point in SAARC's
history. Let this Summit infuse new dynamism
in SAARC. Let us pledge to lay a solid
foundation of mutual cooperation and trust.
I am confident that the Colombo Summit would
provide a fresh impetus to reinvigorating
regional cooperation in South Asia.