South Asia holds summit to build trade, fight terror

NEW DELHI, April 1, 2007 (AFP) – South Asian leaders meet in New Delhi this week to push for joint action against terrorism and efforts to overcome mistrust dogging the trade ambitions of their bloc of 1.4 billion people. Foreign ministry officials began laying the groundwork on Saturday for the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, which comes amid warming ties between rivals India and Pakistan.

“It is a landmark event as it enables the subcontinent to connect to the rest of the world and within itself,” Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said ahead of the summit, the third to be hosted by New Delhi.

“We have a shared economic destiny and SAARC has helped the regional economies to develop and benefit each other,” he said.

The two-day event, starting Tuesday, will be the 14th summit of the grouping since it was set up in 1985 as a collective platform to do business with wealthier cousins such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and accelerate regional growth and trade.

SAARC is made up of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Afghanistan, to be represented by President Hamid Karzai, will be formally inducted as