South Asian leaders admit failing their region

THIMPHU, April 28, 2010 (AFP) – South Asian leaders admitted Wednesday a common failure to overcome their differences and tackle the key challenges in their conflict-ridden region, including poverty, climate change and terrorism. Opening a summit of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bhutan, the host nation’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley said it was time for the bloc to take a long, critical look at itself.

In the 25 years since it was formed to encourage development and raise the living standards of a region that is home to one-fifth of humanity, “SAARC’s journey has not been one of outstanding success”, Thinley said.

“We are losing focus,” he added, citing squabbles and tension between the bloc’s member states that had prevented implementation of its numerous, but ultimately toothless, commitments to change.

“Fractious and quarrelsome neighbours do not make a prosperous community,” he said.

Many SAARC critics have blamed its failure to exploit the region’s common potential to the long and bitter rivalry between its two most powerful members, India and Pakistan, which has often hijacked the bloc’s agenda. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since the su