Saarc Summit to focus on food, fuel security
Food and fuel security will be high on the agenda of the upcoming 15th summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) in Colombo in August.
The visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama stated this in New Delhi on Monday evening after holding talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The summit is scheduled to be held against the backdrop of soaring prices and crisis of food grains and oil across the globe that is hitting South Asian countries hard.
The two-day summit of South Asian heads of state and government, scheduled to begin August 2, is expected to see a forward movement on the proposal for setting up a SAARC Food Bank aimed at meeting the requirements of member-countries at times of need.
Bogollagama said the food as well as fuel security issue would be high on the agenda of the summit, that will have a structured discussion on the subjects to see how the two issues can be addressed and the burden reduced.
Both leaders discussed the food security issue and agreed on need for boosting food grains production.
Saarc had agreed during the previous summit last year to set up a Food Bank where the member-countries will keep a stock of rice and wheat to meet food security in the region during shortages and emergencies. Four countries, including India, have already ratified the declaration and the rest are expected to do the same.
Bogollagama who also discussed the problems with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, stressed on the need for this step to be completed soon.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse at the recent FAO summit in Rome suggested the setting up of a regional food security fund.
Another important item on the agenda of the forthcoming Saarc summit will be connectivity among the member-countries for strengthening trade and economic development, Bogollagama said.
During his meeting with Mukherjee, Bogollagama stressed the need to continue the theme of connectivity, which was the focus of the 14th Summit in Delhi in 2007.
Official sources said Mukherjee and Bogollagama also discussed other SAARC-related issues like SAARC Development Fund, SAARC Standards Organisation and South Asia University.
The Lankan minister sought to allay fears about security in the Sri Lankan capital for the coming summit in the wake of escalation of violence in his country saying "isolated" incidents would not be allowed to cast a shadow on the event.
He said the summit would discuss how to deal with terrorism that is affecting several SAARC countries.
LANKA VOWS SAARC SUMMIT WILL GO AHEAD
Sri Lanka's foreign minister insisted Monday the island would be able to host the next Saarc summit despite a surge in deadly rebel attacks, reports AFP from New Delhi.
The eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) is due to hold its 15th annual summit in Colombo on August 2-3.
"We will do everything possible to ensure the correct level of security," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said in the Indian capital New Delhi.
His statement came hours after a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police compound in northern Sri Lanka, killing at least 12 police and wounding 40 other people.
Sri Lanka has seen a surge in violence blamed on the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) targeting buses, trains and politicians since the government scrapped a 2002 ceasefire with the guerrillas in January.
Bogollagama condemned the latest attack staged by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle as an example of the brutality of the LTTE, who have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since 1972.
"These isolated attacks are most brutal in their character but will not affect our overall security situation" in holding the summit, he said, adding the island had recently played host to various international leaders.
Bogollagama visited India to personally invite Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the summit and to discuss bilateral and regional issues with Indian leaders.
New Delhi hosted the last Saarc summit in 2007 and Singh is due to hand over the Saarc chairmanship to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse at the Colombo summit.
Saarc is made up of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Also expected to attend as official observers are the United States, China, the European Union, Iran and Japan.
Around 1,000 delegates and hordes of media are expected to pour into Colombo for the summit.
This year's meeting is seen as key as the region faces growing crises over soaring fuel and food prices, which will both be part of the talks, as well as terrorism, Bogollagama said.
Set up in 1985, Saarc has been criticised for achieving little -- mostly because of tensions between key members India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars, two over the disputed region of Kashmir.