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Transport corridors set to boost SAARC exchange

September 03, 2007 14:52 IST

The meeting of transport ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries which concluded on August 31 in New Delhi, has identified road, rail and waterway corridors to facilitate the movement of people and goods in the region, said the Union minister for external affairs, Pranab Mukherjee.

Greater physical, economic and people-to-people connectivity among SAARC nations can foster growth and development in the region, he added.

"Physical connectivity makes it incumbent for us to find ways and means through which we are able to facilitate not only the movement of goods but also of people and services. This will act as a major stepping stone in the East for our Look-East Policy and in the west to our links with central Asia. Such a physical connectivity will act as a gateway to invigorated economic activity", he said.

Mukherjee said that he was looking forward to the deliberations of the forthcoming meetings of the finance and commerce ministers of SAARC countries to assess the progress on the negotiations of the South Asian Free Trade Association.

Also in the offing is the meeting of the SAARC home ministers which would address regional security concerns like transational crimes, terrorism, narcotics and psychotropic substances as well as consider how national legislation and procedures may be harmonised for the benefit of victims of crime and human trafficking.

Mukherjee touched upon the issue of a liberated visa regime for students, teachers, professors,  journalists and patients, the forthcoming SAARC cultural festival and the decision to set up a SAARC university in India.

"The interaction with civil society organisations should not be restricted to Delhi alone. Over the next few months, we have planned to hold such meetings in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Thiruvanthupuram and Srinagar", Mukherjee said at a national seminar on 'SAARC: Accelerating Cooperation Through Connectivity', organised jointly by the public diplomacy division of the Union ministry of external affairs, Ficci, Research and Information System(RIS) and the Global India Foundation, in the presence of state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Bhattacharjee called upon SAARC nations to expoit resources for boosting exports and enhancing share in world trade.

While ackowledging the relevance and significance of SAARC, Bhattacharjee took a dig at organisations like WTO, which he alleged were under the dominance of developed countries.He undersored the need for a greater people-to-people contact and a united resolve to combat terrorism in the region.

Bhattacharjee called for establishment of more flights and road routes within SAARC countries, adding that intra-regional tourism could boost people-to-people contact.

Mukherjee expressed confidence that something positive would emerge out of the joint mechanism being worked out by the United Progressive Alliance and the Left parties to settle the imbroglio over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

"As Parliament is in session, I am not in a position to comment on this issue. What I can say is that the UPA-Left allies have developed a mechanism which will help find a way out of the present standoff over the nuclear deal,' Mukherjee said.

He, however, refused to comment on whether India would discuss the India-specific safeguards during its meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency to be held in Vienna in mid-September.

The minister, who has emerged as a principal troubleshooter for the government in the standoff with the Left, had on Thursday announced the formation of a committee to look into certain aspects of the bilateral agreement between India and the US, the implications of the Hyde Act on the 123 Agreement and self-reliance in the nuclear sector.

This apart, the committee would also look into the impact of the agreement on the foreign policy and security cooperation.

The minister had earlier said the 'operationalisation' of the nuclear deal would be linked to the committee's findings.

BS Reporter in Kolkata
Source: source
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