''Improvement in our relations with Pakistan requires an atmosphere that is free from terrorism as it weakens and undermines efforts towards peace and normalisation,'' Dr Singh told the Daily Mirror. He said that India seeks to establish peaceful and friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan. ''We are committed to addressing all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, through bilateral discussions. In the last four years, we have been able to make substantial progress in our relations with Pakistan. Today there is a large constituency for peace in both countries and there is an opportunity to move ahead.'' On rise in terrorism in the region, he said South Asia has witnessed most heinous acts of terrorism in living memory in the recent times, including bombing at India's mission in Kabul where precious lives were lost.
The scourge of terrorism must be removed from our midst and criminal and terrorists must never go unpunished, he said.
''There can be no economic growth or development without peace and security. We need to take all necessary measures to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes. Measures that facilitate better border management and prevent illegal trans border movements are in the interest of all sides,'' the Prime Minister said.
On Indo-Sri Lankan ties, he said since the entry into force of Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the bilateral trade has grown rapidly. Sri Lanka is India's largest trade partner in the region with trade volume standing at 3.5 billion dollars.
Dr Singh said India attaches great importance to its relations with Bangladesh. Our relationship is multifaceted and dynamic and has expanded substantially in recent years.
He expressed confidence that the two countries would be able to address issues, relating to security, water resources and transit amicably.
Referring to a proposal on South Asian integration, the Prime Minister said India has always maintained that it can not prosper and progress without its neighbouring countries and also prospering and progressing in equal measure. ''It is only partnership and cooperation that we can harness our respective strengths,'' he added.
Asked whether some South Asian nations are apprehensive of India because of its vibrant economy, Dr Singh said, ''these are mindsets of the past, which we have to jettison. These have stood in the way of the region occupying its rightful place in the world.'' Indian has always believed in peace and friendship with its neighbours. The SAARC is an association that provides an opportunity to its members to walk the path of progress together, to overcome developmental challenges facing the region and to seize the opportunities that a rapidly globalising world offers.
The Prime Minister said India is committed to intra-regional integration through South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and other mechanisms.