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Now, 'achche din' for SAARC too!

Last updated on: November 26, 2014 19:44 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that India will provide immediate medical visa for patients and an attendant coming for treatment as well as business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC nations.

Sri Lankan traditional drummers perform in front of the South Asian Association of Regional Corporation (SAARC) countries national flags during the South Asian dance festival in Colombo.

Photograph: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Reuters

Outlining India's initiatives in key sectors for South Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday made a series of announcements for SAARC countries – from granting business visa for 3-5 years to immediate medical visa -- and assured all possible help to the grouping.

In his address to the 18th SAARC summit in this picturesque Nepalese capital, Modi said that as SAARC "we have failed to move with speed that our people expect" which some argue was due to a development gap.

"Or, is it because we are stuck behind the walls of our differences and hesitant to move out of the shadows of the past," he asked, asserting that "this won't resolve our differences, but will certainly deprive us of opportunities."

Noting that for India, the vision for the region rests on five pillars –- trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people -- and all through seamless connectivity, Modi said barriers of boundaries inhibit progress and international partnerships add speed to it.

"Because, in the life of an individual or a nation, a good neighbourhood is a universal aspiration," he said in his maiden address at a SAARC summit.

During his nearly 30-minute speech, Modi assured level-playing field to companies in the member countries to do business in India.

"We will address your concerns and give you a level playing field in India. But, I encourage you to attract Indian investments to produce for the Indian market and create jobs for your youth."

"I also look to a future when your companies can easily raise funds in India for investments at home; and, when we have cross-border industrial corridors, so that we can take advantage of the natural synergies and connected lives in our border states," he said.

Modi also announced that India will provide immediate medical visa for patient and an attendant coming for treatment as well as business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC nations.

Identifying health as a major sector for cooperation among the member countries, Modi said India will support monitoring and surveillance of polio-free countries and provide vaccines where it might reappear.

"In the area of health, India will meet the shortfall in funds to establish the SAARC Regional Supra Reference Laboratory for TB and HIV. We offer the five-in-one vaccine for the children of South Asia," he said.

Talking about education, he said India was prepared to connect the South Asian students through online courses and e-libraries and offered to extend India's National Knowledge Network to SAARC region when it was ready.

Referring to space technology, Modi said India's "gift" of a dedicated satellite for the SAARC region has been planned for launch in 2016.

Manash Pratim Bhuyan and Priyanka Tikoo
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