World Bulletin/News Desk
Afghanistan's president warned South Asian leaders against regional rivalries and conflicts at a summit in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, on Wednesday.
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai said the region needs to "change the rules of the game in the playing field, from confrontation to cooperation" when he spoke at the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
"We will not allow our territories to be used by any of our neighbors but we will not allow anybody to conduct proxy wars on our soil either," said Ghani, reflecting Afghanistan's persistent claim that neighboring Pakistan has sponsored Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
The leaders of all eight of the association's member countries touched on the need for greater cooperation on regional security.
"My vision for our region is a dispute-free South Asia where, instead of fighting each other, we jointly fight poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnourishment and unemployment," said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Ghani, a former economist who is hoping to revive Afghanistan's aid-dependent economy, emphasized the role his country could play in connecting South and Central Asia.
"Looking at Afghanistan as a fulcrum point within a regional network, rather than as a national economy in isolation, we can see the prospects of a regional economy," he said.
"Driven by the vision of becoming the Asian roundabout where goods, ideas and people will flow in all directions, we are determined to bring peace, stability and prosperity to the region and ourselves," he said.
The prime ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal focused more on development and climate change.
“It is high time we work honestly to confront these challenges," Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said as he opened the summit.
"No one has the privilege to pollute the planet without accountability," Koirala said. "Our people continue to suffer from compounding threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the strong position he wanted India to play in the region and said his country would invest in infrastructure and provide humanitarian support for its neighbors.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference to the lives of a few brothers and sisters in our region," Modi said.
The leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are attending the two-day summit.
The regional grouping held its first meeting in Bangladesh in 1985 with the intention of fostering better economic and political partnerships.
In 1995, the association committed to the formation of a free trade area, though it has not yet been effectively established.Last Mod: 26 Kasım 2014, 15:13