Economic ties cornerstone of Saarc: Manmohan Singh

August 2nd, 2008 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Colombo, Aug 2 (IANS) South Asia has contributed much towards the resurgence of global economy and countries in the region must engage and integrate better for sustained and inclusive growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the 15th SAARC summit here Saturday. “Today, Asia has become the engine of growth of the world economy and South Asia is a part of this resurgence,” Manmohan Singh said.

“This growth must have a multiplier effect in our region. We have rich, varied experience in development, which we must pool together to create a model of inclusive and sustainable regional development,” he said.

“Economic cooperation, connectivity and integration will be the cornerstone of SAARC in the years ahead. We have already agreed to move towards a South Asian Customs Union and a South Asian Economic Union in a planned and phased manner.”

The prime minister said South Asia had the resources and skills needed to meet its development challenges, adding India had benefited from that, resulting in an average growth of 8.8 percent over the past four years.

“India is now an open economy welcoming investment from everywhere,” he said and pointed out that it had granted zero-duty access to least developed nations from Jan 1, one year ahead of target and pruned its sensitive list for them.

Besides India, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The prime minister also pointed out that India had realised the urgent need for a second green revolution that had used technology and improved farm techniques to emerge self-sufficient in food production.

“The countries of South Asia now need to work towards a collective response that leads to a quantum leap in agricultural productivity, food grain output and farm income so that the spectre of food shortage and hunger vanish from our region.”

He said the establishment of the SAARC Food Bank in 2007 was a forward-looking decision and stands out as an example of the regional groupings foresight in the context of the global food crisis being faced today.

Manmohan Singh also said that to be a dynamic and responsive body, SAARC should also identify and address new challenges, and particularly mentioned the surge in oil and food prices that was jeopardizing the developmental gains.

“SAARC must make its voice heard in the councils of the world to ensure that there is an effective global response that protects the interests of oil consuming countries,” he said.

He, accordingly, called for the member states to pool their resources to tap all renewable sources such as solar energy, hydropower and wind energy, which South Asia has in abundance.

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