Statement by Mr. Taro Aso,
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan,
at the Fourteenth SAARC Summit
New Delhi, April 3, 2007
Chairman Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Distinguished Heads of the delegations of the SAARC members,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on the good start of the Summit. I commend the chairmanship of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.
I am very glad that Japan is now a part of the SAARC as an observer nation. My government, Japan is advancing a new initiative to create an "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity", and the cooperation among us is in line with it. The outer rim of the Eurasian Continent has seen historic transitions in many countries. A new frontier, or an arc, has emerged. It is a growth region, more stable than ever, committed to universal values. South Asia indeed makes a central pillar of the Arc. I have made a pledge that throughout the transitions, Japan shall always be their running mate.
In Nepal and in Bhutan, for example, my country will continue to support their democratization. In Afghanistan, the Japanese have long worked with the Afghan people to help build the nation. I am pleased that Afghanistan is now within the SAARC family. With your long tradition embracing freedom and democracy, you and my country can do a lot together to expand the Arc, to better the world.
Running mates must know well with each other. To promote exchanges among young people is the key. I am glad to tell you that for that purpose my government has just put an additional 7 million dollars into the SAARC-Japan Special Fund. A bridge connecting Japan and the SAARC will promise to widen.
Already, a rich history of friendship has connected us. My grandfather, Shigeru Yoshida, remembered well the late Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene. In September 1951, when the nations gathered in San Francisco to sign the Peace Treaty with Japan, my grand father as Prime Minister represented Japan. He was touched by the statement of Mr. Jayewardene saying "hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love". That also moved many people in Japan as well.
And when Japan's post-war economic miracle was yet to take shape, so much help came to Japan from the very people here. India and Pakistan provided Japan with crucial materials: iron ore and raw cotton.
On our part, I am proud that the late Dasho Keiji Nishioka dedicated his whole life to fostering agriculture in Bhutan.
I am also rejoiced that in December 2004, the sea wall which Japan helped building in the Maldives protected the capital city Male from the horrible tsunami. Afterwards, the Maldives government gave us their prestigious "Green Leaf" Award. I promise that Japan will do more, using its knowledge and experiences, in the disaster prevention area, a common challenge for the SAARC.
I now feel, that I am here, present at the creation of a historic drama. Remember, that 300 years ago, South Asia alone produced one fourth of the world output. What is unfolding is not a new rise, but a great comeback of a region, and the SAARC fully deserves the drama.
In this path, connectivity holds the key. The bridges Japan helped building in Bangladesh have connected the land formerly separated by rivers, water, contributing to the country's social and economic development. Without connectivity, no network will take shape, disturbing SAARC from realizing its potential. My salute goes to the SAARC leaders whose vision and courage are connecting the nations with each other, economically, and spiritually. Here is my pledge: the government of Japan shall cooperate more with the SAARC to achieve a better regional connectivity, and is keen on supporting your priority projects.
For our common purpose, Japan and the SAARC have already made huge strides. Let us work more together. As they say, a dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream we dream together is reality. Japan will be aside you always, doing its best to make our dream come true.
Thank you very much.
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