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Full-text of the Speech by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at the Eleventh SAARC Summit, Kathmandu, January 5, 2002

The following is the addresses delivered by the Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the 11th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The Summit commenced on January 5, at King Birendra International Convention Center, Kathmandu.

I join my colleagues in thanking the government and the people of Nepal for the warmth of their welcome and hospitality. We appreciate the excellent arrangements for this summit.

It is an uplifting experience for me to be here in this charming city of Kathmandu, the earthly abode of the Lord Pashupatinath, and in a country with which India is linked by geography, kinship, tradition and culture.

Your country has recently been through gruesome tragedy and domestic turmoil; but you have emerged from them with a more resilient society and stronger roots of your democracy. I felicitate you on your assumption of the chair of SAARC and wish you a rewarding tenure in its stewardship. We extend our fullest cooperation to you in guiding the association forward.

As Sri Lanka passes the baton, we salute the tireless efforts of its President, who led the organisation through a difficult and turbulent period of its history with a combination of firmness and tact. Our official and Ministerial delegations have been meeting over the last few days, working on our collective decision which will give SAARC its orientation in the 21st century.

Mr Chairman,

SAARC turned 16 last month, in its formative years, it has developed the base for a strong network of economic, social, cultural, scientific and technical collaboration in the region our integrated programme of action defines a broad-based agenda. The group of eminent persons has identified the elements of a social agenda which could form the nucleus of a SAARC social charter.

Sri Lanka's initiative for a SAARC cultural centre underlines the common cultural heritage of our unique South Asian identity. More and more of our professionals like doctors and accountants, writers and painters, business leaders and journalists are establishing associations with their counterparts across borders.

What we need today is the dose of maturity which would lead SAARC from adolescence to adulthood. It would enable us to put aside our mutual rivalries, so that our scarce resources can be concentrated on the pressing agenda of eradication of poverty, hunger, disease, and illiteracy. It would not let political obsessions cloud our collective vision of a vibrant and prosperous South Asian community.

Some month ago, I wrote to a South Asian colleague, reminding him that the common enemy of our two countries is poverty and inviting him to take with us the high road of cooperation and reconciliation to satisfy the shared aspirations of our people. From this forum today, I make the same appeal to all the leaders of South Asia: let us jointly declare war on the poverty which afflicts about half a billion people in our region alone. Let us develop regional poverty alleviation programmes, which would complement our national schemes and strengthen our commitment to implement them.

Ten years ago, we set up an independent South asian Commission on poverty alleviation with a membership of eminent South Asians. The Dhaka summit endorsed its report and committed South Asia to work for total eradication of poverty, preferably by 2002. Unfortunately, this joint endeavour never took off.

I believe that we owe it to our people to make another sincere attempt. The Poverty Commission still exists, let it be revived and reconvened to update and flesh out its 1992 report. Let us this time show great commitment to making our cooperative mechanisms work. India is willing to host the meetings of the reconvened Poverty Commission and extend all assistance to enable it to complete its work expeditiously.


January 5, 2002





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