IK Gujral emphasises on connectivity to make SAARC an economic bloc

January 15th, 2008 - 4:10 pm ICT by admin  

By Praful Kumar Singh

New Delhi, Jan 15 (ANI): Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, who has always seen SAARC as an economic bloc and way to have greater bonding among countries of South Asia, today said that c onnectivity has been the key issue from the beginning for the development of the South Asian region.

Reducing the travel fare, while travelling between one place to another within South Asia in particular has been one of the most important subject of discussions, which needs to be addressed in earnest, he said.

If the train from China has reached Tibet, there should be every effort to connect South Asia from within in order to develop the region, Gujral said.

He sounded optimistic that the SAARC would develop as an economic bloc on the lines of the European Union and Indian Government is working towards to achieve this goal.

Gujral expressed his views in a seminar, SAARC: Towards Greater Connectivity, organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), and the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi.

Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said that the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is fully operational now and India is looking seriously to improve the existing situation relating to investment in South Asia, which is the only way to improve trade within the SAARC countries.

Underlining the efforts of India related to SAFTA, he mentioned that import duties on more than 4537 items have been removed, as far as the five LDCs in the SAARC is concerned.

Ramesh also stated that the government is looking into the sensitive list containing 747 items, which cover mostly items relating to agriculture and textiles.

He also mentioned removal of Non-Tariff barriers is equally important for improving the SAFTA further and India has adopted indigenous ways to address this issue.

Indian investment in the neighbouring countries, he said, would allow them to reduce the trade deficit vis-a-vis India.

Efforts have also been made to improve the cross-LoC trade between the two Kashmirs. India has given a list of 14 items to Pakistan, of which nine have been approved by the other side, Ramesh said.

Director of the IPCS, Major General (retired) Dipankar Banerjee, was hopeful that such seminars would help in shaping the future of the SAARC.

Former Secretary General of the SAARC Nihal Rodrigo said that connectivity is a vital imperative for South Asias future.

Rodrigo thanked IPCS, IIC for convening this conference on greater connectivity in SAARC, and said: SAARC needs to carefully consider procedures and suitable terms on which it could work with the observers on carefully identified areas of mutually acceptable cooperation. (ANI)

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