New Delhi: South Asian countries today called for greater involvement of private sector players for enhancing the regional integration of SAARC and increasing trade and investments in the region.
"Movement of people should be smooth in the SAARC region. We need to work collectively for our economic development. Private sector can play a major role in enhancing regional integration," Afghanistan's Deputy Commerce and Industry Minister Mozammel Shinwari said here.
Sharing similar views, Murtozaa Reza Chowdhury, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh, said the intra-SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) trade is very low and it needs to be enhanced.
"Participation and collaboration of private sector (of the South Asian region) is very important for integration of the region. Regional groups like ASEAN are doing very well," Chowdhury said.
Nepal's Commerce Secretary Madhav Prasad Regmi said the member nations have to work together, particularly the private sector, for sustainable growth in the SAARC region.
"Regional integration will help in dealing with issues like poverty, illiteracy and gender inequality," Rabiya Javeri Agha, Secretary, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, said.
According to a report, South Asia has the largest number of poor people with over 500 million living below the poverty line.
The officials also emphasised on the need to strengthen the land, air and sea connectivity in the region.
India's Commerce Secretary S R Rao said there is a need to enhance trade through land route, particularly between India and Pakistan.
"India cannot prosper alone. Its prosperity is closely linked with the prosperity of its neighbours. Through enhanced trade, we can build the confidence in the region. Together we can work for mutual prosperity of our people," Rao added.
The officials were speaking at the 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave at FICCI.
Trade between the member countries (excluding Afghanistan) stood at about USD 14.5 billion in 2010-11. Afghanistan joined the group in May 2012.
SAARC members comprise Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.