He said that the members would benefit politically and also strengthen their economies if they could leave their differences behind for they had demographic advantages when compared to other parts of the world. Addressing the SAARC Diploma Engineers' Conference in Chandigarh on Saturday, Tewari said that south Asia is home to two-fifth of the world's population, endowed with vast human resources.

"While this presents a challenge, at the same time it provides an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend particularly in comparison to the aging populations around the world," Tewari said.

He said that India has always performed its role in fostering regional cooperation between South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia, and it will continue to do so in the future also. He said that SAARC's growth, since it was founded in 1985, was gradual but steady. Citing the example of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), Tewari said that it had emerged as the best template of regional cooperation.

SAARC member countries face common challenges like poverty, hunger, illiteracy and the need for infrastructure development and all these could be dealt with through cooperation, he added. Complimenting the SAARC Diploma Engineers' Forum for organizing the conference, Tewari hoped that it would help build technical linkages between member countries, which are important for building and developing infrastructure.

(Agencies)

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