11/27/2014, 00.00
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Fight against terrorism and religious extremism "unites South Asia"

by Christopher Sharma
Heads of state and government meeting in Kathmandu for the annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit lay out a roadmap for mutual help against fanaticism and sectarian violence. Beijing's bid to join the group is turned down.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The fight against terrorism and religious fundamentalism is the "top priority" for the governments of South Asia who are together against a "common enemy" that threatens every "civilised way of life," said Nepali Prime Minister Shushil Koirala in Kathmandu, as he brought to an end the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

For Nepal's Prime Minister Shushil Koirala, "Terrorism is our common enemy and a growing threat to civilised way of life.

"South Asia has been the worst victim of terrorism and transnational crimes of various kinds," he added. "Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, including militant extremism and religious fundamentalism, must therefore be combated collectively".

Echoing the summit's host, Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif said, "We should not fight each other. We should collectively fight against social disorder, poverty and violent religious extremism that derail our development efforts."

For his part, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani noted, "Terrorism and religious fundamentalism has been the most pressing set back to development in this region. So, we all should unite to wipe out the inhuman activities in the area".

On the sidelines of the meeting, four of the eight member states - Nepal, India, Bhutan and Sri-Lanka - emphasised and agreed to build a 'Buddhist trail' based on their shared heritage.

Diplomatic sensitivities were somewhat stirred by China's request to join the group. Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan - at Beijing's request - supported the latter's bid; the other five countries - Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and India - voted against it.

In applying for membership, "China is ready to enhance economic cooperation with [the] SAARC region," said Liu Zhenmin, China's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs.

"China," he explained, "has deepened cooperation in the field of trade, investment and agriculture in SAARC since it became an observer in 2006. China has set aside US$ 550,000 for SAARC Development Fund".

However, despite the appealing offer, Delhi's position prevailed and Beijing's submission was rejected.

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