South Asia leaders target terrorism and trade

NEW DELHI, April 4, 2007 (AFP) – South Asian leaders were to wrap up a two-day summit Wednesday setting the fight against terrorism and stronger trade as priorities for a region that is home to nearly 1.5 billion people. Diplomats and officials admitted however that, differences between India and Pakistan, who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, looked likely to once again water down any final declaration.

India led the cry to “root out terrorism” if the fortunes of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) were to be revived.

And the eight member nations agreed that real economic progress in South Asia — home to half the world’s poor — was impossible without conquering security issues.

“The wording of the final declaration is being worked out. But fighting terrorism will definitely be in the joint declaration” to be issued Wednesday, said an Indian foreign ministry official, who declined to be named.

This was because “seven out of eight SAARC countries have identified terrorism as a major problem,” he said.

A South Asian diplomat said it was unclear whether officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka w