Concerns about terrorism and accusations of responsibility for recent
bomb blasts in Afghanistan and India are overshadowing the annual
summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. VOA
correspondent Steve Herman reports from Colombo.
South Asian leaders are pledging, albeit in vague terms, to work together to fight terrorism.
SAARC summit convened a day after Pakistan refuted accusations its
intelligence service had a role in last month's fatal bombing at
India's embassy in Kabul. U.S. media reports Friday quoted American
intelligence sources as saying electronic intercepts connected the
bombers to Pakistani intelligence.
Indian officials here say
Pakistan's prime minister, during a "candid and open conversation" with
his Indian counterpart, promised he will conduct "an independent
investigation" of the bombing.
India media report that prime
minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistan's Yousuf Raza Gilani that "such
attacks" would have to stop for the two nuclear armed neighbors to
repair their strained relationship.
Speaking at the opening of the SAARC summit, Mr. Gilani deplored the July 7 blast.
condemn the attack on Indian Embassy on Kabul though Pakistan has
suffered the most terrorism afflicts (sic) on countries of our region,"
Mr. Gilani added that regional leaders have a joint responsibility to rid South Asia of terrorism.
and Afghanistan have also accused Pakistani elements of having a role
in the blast in which about 60 people died, including two Indian
India is also reeling from a series of domestic
bomb blasts. Indian media quote officials as saying terrorist groups
based in Pakistan or Bangladesh are suspected.
The Indian prime
minister, Manmohan Singh, speaking at the opening of the summit, called
the blast in the Afghan capital a gruesome reminder of the "barbarity"
"It remains the single biggest threat to our stability and to our progress. We cannot afford to lose the battle," he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who said there could not be greater regional
until terrorism is overcome. He called for a joint fight to combat it
in a region where countries have supported extremists across borders to
further their own interests.
"It is time we all realize that the
pursuit of narrow geo-political interests and the use of militant
radicalism as an instrument of policy can not succeed or serve any long-term purpose," he said.
heads of all governments of SAARC member states on Sunday are to sign a
mutual cooperation agreement to share information on terrorists. It is
unclear if and when actual exchange of such information would begin.
The 23-year-old regional institution has a record of issuing
declarations and making agreements but little success in implementing
SAARC is composed of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.