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SAARC summit in Colombo to tackle terrorism, energy security

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury NEW DELHI, Aug 1 (KUNA) -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Friday for Colombo to attend the two-day 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit starting Saturday, during which the crucial issues of terrorism and energy security are expected to dominate the agenda of the meet. On the sidelines of the summit at the Sri Lankan capital, Dr Manmohan Singh is also likely to meet his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani. India will the raise the issues of cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations during this meeting, a source in the Indian External Affairs Ministry told KUNA today ahead of the premier's departure.
Last night, Singh said said in a statement, "In the 23 years since SAARC was established, the South Asian region has traversed a long distance. Today, there is a realisation amongst SAARC countries that it is only by cooperating within SAARC that we will be able to strengthen ourselves individually and as a region and address the many common challenges that face us." The theme of this year's summit is "The SAARC: Partnership for our People." Crucial issues of terrorism, food security, climate change and energy crisis will be deliberated at the summit, the source said.
Four pacts -- SAARC development fund; SAARC standard coordinating board agreement; SAARC agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters; and the protocol on Afghanistan's acceptance to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement -- are expected to be entered into at the Colombo summit, the source informed.
SAARC comprises India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The other South Asian leaders attending the meet will be Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nepal's caretaker prime minister GP Koirala, Bangladesh Chief Advisor to interim government Fakhruddin Ahmed, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Bhutan Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley.
Also attending the SAARC summit will be observers from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, the US, Mauritius, and the European Union. Two other countries, Australia and Myanmar, have also sought observer status.
The SAARC was formed in 1985. India hosted the 14th Summit in April 2007. (end) dr.ema KUNA 011034 Aug 08NNNN