South Asian leaders discuss regional trade, flashpoints at SAARC summit

World Today

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, speaks with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala during the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit, the first since 2011, is meant as a forum to discuss regional issues, but is usually dominated by the rivalry between Pakistan and India. (AP Photo/Narendra Shrestha, Pool)

After a three-year gap, the leaders of eight South Asian countries are all at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting, or SAARC, in Nepal. CCTV America’s Shweta Bajaj reported this story from the first day of the summit the capital, Kathmandu.

Leaders of eight South Asian nations meet at SAARC summit

It is after a gap of three years, that leaders of eight South Asian countries are meeting. It's all part of SAARC, which stands for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. CCTV America's Shweta Bajaj reported on the first day of the summit in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu, the focus was on making the most of the opportunity to have the leaders of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives in the same place. While SAARC has been in existence for nearly 30 years, many said that the group has not been able to meet its goals.

“Our challenge today is to work towards peace, security and economic sustainability in the SAARC region, to harness the full potential of every corner of this region, to deliver prosperity that is felt by every individual seen in every community, realized in every country, and appreciated by the rest of the world,” said Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the president of the Republic of Maldives.

Leaders discussed improving road and rail connectivity, better trade ties, climate change, anti-terrorism and maintaining peace in the region. South Asia is home to one-fourth of the world’s population, but it’s also home to the most of the world’s poor as development takes a backseat to disputes between countries.

“As SAARC, we have failed to move with the speed that our people expect and want,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the summit. “Some argue that it is because of the region’s development gap, but that should actually spur us to do more. Or, is it because we are stuck behind the walls of our differences and hesitant to move out of the shadows of the past? This won’t resolve our differences, but will certainly deprive us of opportunities.”