18th SAARC Summit kicks off; President Ghani calls for deeper cooperation among member countries

The 18th South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit kicked off on Wednesday in Kathmandu as leaders of the eight member countries pledged to strengthen ties and support each other.

The ceremony commenced with the nation anthem of Nepal, the host country. The leaders from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives posed for the official photograph and Chairperson of the 17th SAARC summit, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives, declared the summit open and invited the Prime Minister of Nepal, Sushil Koirala, to take the chair.

In his speech, President Ashraf Ghani called for deeper integration within SAARC, genuine commitment to address the root causes of violence within the region and forging instruments of cooperation to bring lasting peace.

 Deeper integration for peace, said President Ghani, requires acknowledgment of failures of governance, such as corruption, exclusion, and injustice on the part of the rich and powerful. “Deeper integration for prosperity is an even more of an imperative for our countries,” he said.

Deeper integration for peace, said President Ghani, requires acknowledgment of failures of governance, such as corruption, exclusion, and injustice on the part of the rich and powerful 

President Ghani said the Asian continental economy is in the process of emerging. “But whether the energy resources of the Caspian basin and Central Asia – estimated at 600 trillion cubic meters of gas tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity, will power SAARC’s transformation from factor driven growth to efficiency and innovation driven growth depends on our collective will.”

He also drew the attention of SAARC leaders towards the challenges facing the region in terms of peace and security. “I lead a country marked by recurrent acts of terror against the innocent. The tragedy of Yahya Khel on Sunday, where 57 of our citizens were murdered in cold blood during a game of volleyball is a reminder, as is the earlier tragedy of Wagah in Pakistan,” said President Ghani.

“To hold wounded children in one’s arms in a hospital, as I was late Sunday evening, is to feel the depth of our fall from our sense of shared humanity and the values of our great religions,” he added.
President Ghani said Afghanistan must be seen as a fulcrum within a regional network rather than as a national economy in isolation. “To the north there are pipelines that extend deep into Central Asia.

To the west is access to oil and employment. To the south we can extend transport and improve transit. Seeing Asia as a single region opens up entire horizons for re-thinking our strategies for growth and development,” he said.

 As the president of Afghanistan, he said his country is committed to deeper integration for peace and prosperity. “Having been plunged into conflict in 1978, we are determined to create a virtuous circle of peace, stability and prosperity,” President Ghani ended his speech with these words.

President Ghani is accompanied by acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zarar Ahmad Osmani and the presidential palace spokesperson, Nazifullah Salarzai at the summit. 

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