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Stability key to SAsia progress: PM
October 09, 2004 20:42 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said helping create a peaceful and stable South Asia was a priority for the United Progressive Alliance government.
In a message read out at the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) meet in New Delhi, the PM said the media could play a critical role in the process by shaping ideas to overcome the burden of past perceptions.
Observing that South Asia remained one of the world's less developed regions despite its advantages, he said, "Our individual and collective struggle to march forward on the road to development has been impaired by weak intra-regional cooperation, compounded by mutual suspicion".
Singh said his government would like to encourage the free flow of ideas and people to help shed prejudices and develop an appreciation of the existing ground realities. To this end, he said, India had liberalised visa rules for journalists from Pakistan to visit India. "I am glad that it has yielded concrete results," he said.
In her message, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the UPA gave utmost importance to building closer political, economic and other ties with the neighbours in South Asia and to strengthening SAARC.
Gandhi said the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means was an essential pre-requisite for strengthening ties. "In the past, the Congress party and the governments led by it took several steps to resolve conflicts through bilateral efforts and other means. That continues to be its motto and its policy," she said.
In another message, the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, L K Advani, said South Asia occupied an important position on the world map in various fields. "A cohesive and united South Asia could pose an unbeatable challenge to the rest of the world," he said.
He noted that inter-state conflicts in this region had marred progress greatly. Advani commended SAFMA for its role in promoting peace and regional cooperation.
More reports from Delhi
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