India is committed to strengthening regional cooperation and integration, being a founding-member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a message marking the 34th SAARC Charter Day Saturday. Modi’s expression of commitment to SAARC, and his stress on the need for peace and security to promote regional cooperation, is significant in the backdrop of India’s refusal to participate in the next summit of the group, to be hosted by Pakistan.“In its journey of over three decades, SAARC has made progress. However, it has been below the region’s full potential. An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to flourish and achieve economic development and prosperity our people.” Modi said in his message.India-Pakistan tensions have retarded progress made by the group. India pulled out of the SAARC summit two years ago, citing alleged Pakistani backing for terrorists. Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh too decided not to take part.According to the rules, if even one head of state, or government, decides not to participate, the summit has to be postponed. SAARC also groups the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India recently rejected Pakistan’s call to participate in the 19th summit to be held in Islamabad, citing the lack of a conducive environment.Of late, India has been more active on another regional multilateral forum, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which groups Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Nepal and Bhutan. Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in the South Asian region, Modi said in his message, calling for the elimination of terrorism in all forms.On the same occasion, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said SAARC can help create a conducive and congenial atmosphere to build economic synergy in the region and transform the quality of life of the people of South Asia.“It is only through adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect among member states, would we able to exploit the true potential of SAARC and achieve our cherished goal of prosperous and developed South Asian region,” Khan said in his SAARC Charter Day message.Without mentioning Pakistan’s differences India, he said it was unfortunate that unresolved bilateral disputes among member-countries had prevented SAARC from achieving the goal of socio-economic cooperation and prosperity.