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Panelists call for fostering mutual understanding

COLOMBO, (INP) A panel discussion on “SAARC: Its Impediments and Way Forward”, was organised by the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka and the premier national security think tank, Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) as their first ever joint venture.
The panel of speakers comprised of several high profile Sri Lankan and Pakistani experts including Secretary Defence Eng. KarunasenaHettiarachchi, Former Secretary General of SAARC Ambassador Nihal Rodrigo, Director General of INSSSL AsangaAbeyagoonasekera, Dr. Syed RifaatHussain, Mr. IkramSehgal and His Excellency the High Commissioner of Pakistan Maj. Gen. (R) Syed ShakeelHussain.
The event was attended by a cross section of diplomatic corps, senior military officers, members of academia and other dignitaries, Pakistani community in Sri Lanka and media personnel.
The speakers at the panel discussion urged the South Asian states to provide all individuals with the opportunity to live in dignity, and to realise their full potential as enshrined in the SAARC Charter. They said, in an increasingly developed world, the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved in the South Asian region by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful cooperation among the member states which are bound by ties of history and culture.
In his opening remarks, the High Commissioner of Pakistan Maj. Gen. (R) Syed ShakeelHussain underscored that unless strong commitment was shown by all nations in the region towards respecting and honouring sovereign equality, the progress of SAARC will keep getting hampered. It is imperative that India and Pakistan being the biggest economies must solve their bilateral issues, he added. He emphasised that “the road to peace and prosperity in SAARC lies through Srinagar”.
Secretary Defence and Chairman INSSSL, Eng. KarunasenaHettiarachchi, in his keynote address, stated that as one of the poorest regions in the world, with the number of people below the poverty line rising every year, we are a long way from reaching the target of poverty alleviation. Thus, it is imperative for member states to cooperate and prioritize the Sustainable Development Goals and further the development agenda. He further highlighted that in South Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the worst victims of the affliction of terrorism and given the severity of this issue, it is important to continue and strengthen the relationships among the member states of SAARC to combat terrorism. SAARC needs to expand its vision and be more inclusive and open to establish new linkages with interactions among private and informal sectors being important, he stated.
Former Secretary General SAARC, Amb. Nihal Rodrigo said it was very unfortunate that the SAARC Summit which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in 2016, was first delayed and then cancelled due to bilateral issues between Pakistan and India although, it is mentioned in the SAARC Charter that the organisation should not be hostage to bilateral problems.



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