South Asia summit pledges ‘new era’ of cooperation

THIMPHU, April 29, 2010 (AFP) – South Asian leaders wound up a summit in Bhutan Thursday with an accord to tackle climate change and promises to pursue a new era of development for their under-performing region. The two-day summit of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was notable for the frank appraisal offered by several members of the bloc’s collective failings over the past 25 years.

In a final declaration, the summit said it was time for the organisation to live up “to the hopes and aspirations of the one-fifth of humanity” represented by the eight leaders gathered in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu.

It also adopted a statement on climate change that stressed the need for the region to join hands in combating a threat that faces all its members, from low-lying Maldives and Bangladesh to Himalayan nations like Bhutan and Nepal.

The host nation’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, who chaired the gathering, said there had been an overwhelming consensus to turn SAARC into “more than a talk shop”.

“The stage is set for SAARC to enter a new era 25 years after its founding,” Thinley said.

“I hope the things that did not happen in South Asia will now