Destiny of South Asia lies in our own hands: PM
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Last Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 22:28
Zeenews Bureau

Addu: Addressing the 17th SAARC summit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India will deliver on peace in South Asia.

“I can see the impressive progress that we have made in the recent years. Since our last summit alone our ministers have met regularly,” he said, adding, “Regional cooperation in South Asia is good for all our countries.”

He said in his discussion with leaders of South Asia, he sensed a collective commitment and desire to give greater meaning and content to SAARC.

But he added, "Admittedly, there is a lot to be done but the political will is there. We have all come to believe that regional cooperation is good for each one of our countries".

He reaffirmed that India will do whatever is within its capabilities to make SAARC an effective instrument to deliver on vision of common peace, shared prosperity and cooperation.

Singh, who last week attended the G20 Summit, referred to the acute crisis in the global economy, which he said has imposed a fresh and entirely uncalled for burden on developing countries.

"We hope that the leaders of the major economies, particularly in the eurozone, will show the wisdom and will that are required to revive the global economy," he said.

However, he said that the world economy was going to take time to recover.

"In the meantime developing countries like ours will be squeezed for capital, investments and markets for our exports. We should seek imaginative ways to create new avenues and sources of growth and investment in South Asia," Singh said.

“The destiny of South Asia lies in our own hands,” the Prime Minister emphasised.

"We have a long way to go, but I am confident that we can realise our true potential through sustained effort," he said.

He added, "We have to learn to trust each other and to learn from each other. The security and stability of our countries are closely interlinked.

"None of us can prosper in isolation to each other. We cannot afford to allow the many problems we face to stand in the way of our ambitions and dreams".

The PM also said that he realized that given India's geography and size of its economy and market, it has special responsibility to enhance SAARC process.

Manmohan Singh announced that India will reduce sensitive trade list for SAARC Least Developed Countries from 480 to 25 tariff lines with zero basic customs duty access.

Commending the Postal Administrations of SAARC for agreeing to establish a South Asian Postal Union, the Prime Minister said India is happy to host the ad hoc Secretariat for the Union, and to sponsor training courses at its Postal Staff College to train up to ten SAARC officials per year, belonging to interested member states.

He also sought greater broadcasting, television and film exchanges among the member countries.

"It is time that we overcome the information deficit among the SAARC countries. We should encourage our people to know more about each other," he said.

Singh also announced a series of initiatives that India will take for greater people-to-people contact in the South Asian region.

He said India will host a conclave of the top dozen tour operators from the SAARC region to boost tourism exchanges.

"We will take the initiative to establish a travelling exhibition on the ancient history of South Asia. This could comprise of a hundred archeologically-significant pieces per country to be selected by member states. The exhibition can be hosted in each of our national museums in turn for three months," he said.

With 'Building Bridges' as its theme, the Summit hosted by Maldives in the southern most point of the island lying south of equator, is being attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina among others.

Singh noted that post-graduate courses in the South Asian University have started in July 2010.

He said India will increase the number of SAARC Silver Jubilee Scholarships for the South Asian University from 50 to 100. 75 of these will be at the Masters level and 25 at the doctoral level.

"Protecting our environment even as we pursue rapid growth is essential. The India Endowment for Climate Change which I had announced last year has been established. We look forward to receiving project proposals from our SAARC partners," he said.

Singh also announced a total of ten scholarships per year to SAARC member states for post-graduate and doctoral studies in forestry courses at the Forestry Research Institute of India, Dehradun.

With PTI inputs

First Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 17:27

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