The first meeting of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation concluded today with leaders failing to discuss the most controversial issue in the territory: the nuclear race between India and Pakistan.
"We did not want to bring this radioactive material into" the new group, Bangladeshi President Hussein Mohammed Ershad said in a press conference at the end of the two-day session of the world's newest and most populous cooperation bloc. "Therefore we did not discuss any nuclear issues."
Ershad is the first chairman of the association, composed of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives -- which together have a population of 1 billion.
The seven leaders adopted a charter for the organization and agreed on 11 general areas of cooperation, including rural development, population control, agriculture, technology, telecommunications and sports.
Two new subject areas, terrorism and drug trafficking and abuse, were added to the long-term agenda.
There was no discussion of the intensifying nuclear race between India and Pakistan.
Although the regional nuclear issue was raised Saturday by Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who lamented the "increasing possibility of the development of nuclear weapons," it was not picked up by the other leaders today.