MALDIVES: Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to regional cooperation under the SAARC at the Meeting of SAARC Standing Committee held at the atoll of Addu in the Maldives on Monday.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir represented Pakistan at the Meeting of SAARC States Foreign Secretaries, a preparatory to the main summit which will feature heads of government from the SAARC countries. Pakistani and Indian Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh are expected to attend the summit.
Salman Bashir in a statement said that Pakistan believes that the SAARC must lead the way and act as a catalyst for South Asia's socio-economic transformation. The Foreign Secretary added that the economic potential of the region were enormous.
“Asia, as a whole was surging ahead economically. South Asia must endeavor to become an important pillar for global economic growth,” the statement read, “it was important that differences and disputes that had held back regional cooperation must be resolved”.
The Foreign Secretary said that the world was interested in SAARC. It saw the potential of the region. Pakistan supports greater interaction with extra regional states and organizations. SAARC should consider establishing dialogue partnership with interested states.
Pakistan welcomed China's interest in an interactive partnership with SAARC. Pakistan suggested that a moratorium on expansion of observers be lifted and supported Turkey's request for becoming an observer to group.
Bashir said that Pakistan also supported the concept of regional energy cooperation with SAARC initiatives in enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation in agriculture, food security, poverty alleviation, climate change, trade and other areas of cooperation.
India, Pakistan officials meet before South Asia summit
Senior officials from India and Pakistan met in the Maldives Tuesday as they prepared for a summit of South Asian nations in the remote atoll of Addu, an official said.
Maldivian Foreign Secretary Ahmed Naseer said India's foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir met during the meeting of senior officials, but declined to give details.
"They met, but I cannot comment on their bilateral matters and what they discussed," Naseer told reporters after officials met to hammer out a declaration to be approved by their foreign ministers and at the summit.
Naseer said foreign secretaries also discussed greater trade cooperation among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and said Pakistan's decision announced last week to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India had also figured in their talks.
However, Naseer said they had also decided that any trade concessions agreed within the regional grouping should be better than the existing bilateral trade arrangements.
Many smaller members of SAARC, which groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have expressed concern that Indo-Pakistan tensions were hampering regional trade.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani are due to hold talks on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday.
The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh's invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final.
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