President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned to the island this morning (Nov. 28) after having successful South Asian dialogue.
The President met fellow leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) on the sideline of 18th SAARC Summit held in Katmandu, Nepal. The leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives and Nepal held bilateral talks with the President.
The Afghan and Sri Lankan leaders paid attention on strengthening education and health cooperation between the two nations. Afghan Leader Ashroff Ghani noted that Sri Lanka has achieved greater milestones in the sectors of education and health. He also requested President Rajapaksa to assist to develop the respective fields in his country.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan Tsherin Tobgay noted that many Bhutanese students are seeking higher education in Sri Lanka. He thanked President Rajapaksa for allowing room to Bhutanese youth to complete their higher education in Sri Lanka. He also requested the President to support to develop health sector of Bhutan. The talks with the state leaders of the Maldives and Nepal were centered on economic relations and the tourism industry.
Maldivian President Abdhul Yamin Abdhul Gayum held the remarkable development is being taken place in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister of Nepal Sushil Koirala pointed out the importance of stability in achieving development goals in a nation.
The 18th Summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation concluded yesterday (Nov. 27), adopting a 36-point Kathmandu Declaration that emphasized enhancing connectivity, combating terrorism and launching regional, development projects to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia.
The two-day summit also decided to hold the SAARC Summit every two years instead of the current provision of organizing it annually. Accordingly the next SAARC Summit will be held in Pakistan in 2016. SAARC Council of Ministers will meet once a year and the Standing Committee at least once a year and Programming Committee at least twice a year. It was also decided to make the Programming Committee a charter body. The SAARC Charter will be amended to include the changes.
Leaders from eight SAARC member states took part in the Summit. They univocally stressed on collective efforts in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and having effective cooperation among the member states to prevent trafficking in persons, arms and drugs and exploitation of children for forced labour. They also agreed to review and analyze a previous document regarding the engagement with the Observers to establish dialogue partnership.
SAARC Chairman Prime Minister Koirala said that the Kathmandu Summit, with the theme of “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”, succeeded in deepening cooperation in core areas of trade, investment, finance, energy, infrastructure and connectivity. It also stressed on utilising the youth power for socio-economic development. It also called for increasing agricultural productivity, ensuring food and nutritional security in the region, providing quality education, eliminating illiteracy and providing vocational education and training to the youth. It stressed on making South Asia an attractive common destination as well.