Modi talks about ‘closer South Asian integration’at SAARC Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday stressed closer regional cooperation between SAARC countries and suggested five pillars for achieving that goal.

“For India, our vision for the region rests on five pillars — trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people — and, all through seamless connectivity,” Mr. Modi said, in his inaugural address, in English, to the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu.

The Summit kicked off in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu with the President of the Maldives Abdulla Yameen Abdul handing over the chairmanship to host of the Summit, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala of Nepal.

India announced a travel measure in the region that has been talked about from time to time. “India will now give business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC. Let’s make it even easier for our businesses through a SAARC Business Traveller Card,” the prime minister said.

The Prime Minister noted that barriers of boundaries inhibited progress in the region. “A good neighbourhood is a universal aspiration. Nowhere in the world collective efforts more urgent than in SA,” he said.

He made it a point to speak about the importance of direct trade route in the region.

“Today, goods travel from one Punjab to the other Punjab through Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Karachi – making the journey eleven times longer and the cost four times more,” he noted. Mr. Modi suggested shrinking the distance between the producers and consumers and use the most direct routes of trade. “I know India has to lead, and we will do our part. I hope, each of you will, too.”

Referring to Mumbai terror attacks on this day in 2008, Mr. Modi asked the leaders to work together “to fulfill the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes.”

Concluding his address in Hindi, Mr. Modi emphasized on the importance of being together than to be near each other. “I say this to my country too.”

SAARC leaders speak out on need to combat terrorism

President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who attended the Summit for the first time spoke about the need to combat terrorism collectively. “Some state actors have been found to assist non-state actors,” he said.

Pakistan for dispute free South Asia: Sharif

During his address at the SAARC Summit, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan said that his vision for the region was of a dispute-free South Asia where instead of fighting one another, the countries jointly fought poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnourishment and unemployment.

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