The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation today emphatically rejected Pakistan's proposal to involve the regional grouping in settling local conflicts and unequivocally declared that stability, peace and security in south Asia could not be considered in isolation of the global security environment.
In a 23-page "Colombo declaration" adopted at the end of their three-day tenth summit, the leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka underscored their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and the need for promoting nuclear disarmament on a universal basis.
Making a reference to the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, the declaration said the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to which some SAARC members were signatories, had not led to any progress towards nuclear disarmaments for prevented proliferation.
It called upon all nuclear weapons states, whether party or non-party to the NPT, to engage constructively through a transparent and credible process of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament.
The SAARC leaders recognised that the member states and the people of the region continued to face the serious threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and drug trafficking. They reiterated their firm commitment to combat these activities in the region.
Dealing at length with economic issues, the declaration said the SAARC leaders expressed their abhorrence over the practice of imposition of unilateral coercive measures as an instrument of policy against developing nations. They called for their immediate cessation.
The SAARC leaders decided to take urgent measures to remove structural impediments in order to move speedily towards the goal of achieving a South Asian Free Trade Area by 2001, as mandated by the ninth SAARC summit in Male. To this end, they decided that a committee of experts be constituted in consultation with member states with specific terms of reference to work on drafting a comprehensive treaty regime for creating a free trade area.
Referring to terrorism, the declaration said the SAARC leaders urged all member states to enhance co-operation against the menace, wherever, by whomever, against whoever it occurred and to fully observe and implement the SAARC regional convention on terrorism. They affirmed that criminal acts intended to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons, for whatever purposes, were unjustifiable in any circumstances.
They called for international action to prevent the abuse of refugee conventions and to halt the activities which helped terrorist groups to collect funds for their activities.
They expressed their concern about the shortcomings of the international monetary and financial system, and its tardiness in anticipating impending financial market crisis sufficiently in advance, so that pre- emptive remedial action be adopted. They noted that the problem is systemic, and not unique to Asia, nor confined to emerging economies, and that it can have global ramifications, unless more fundamental reforms are put in place.
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