India committed to fulfilling its SAARC responsibilities: Krishna

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New Delhi, Nov.17 (ANI): India is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities in SAARC in an asymmetric and non-reciprocal manner for the benefit of the countries in the region, said External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna in the capital on Tuesday.

Delivering the inaugural address at a conference on South Asian economic integration at FICCI, Krishna said that the Recent exchanges in the SAARC Summits have catalysed SAARC's transformation from declaratory to implementation phase.

"The recent Ministerial Meeting of SAFTA has taken forward the on-going negotiations for full implementation of SAFTA in letter and spirit. India's has given zero duty access to least developed countries (LDCs) from January 1, 2008, one year ahead of the target date and unilaterally reduced its Negative List with respect to LDCs from 744 to 480. A draft agreement on trade in services is in the final stages of negotiation, to be ready for signature at the next SAARC Summit. Discussions are also ongoing in SAARC to strengthen financial integration with a view towards a regional Customs Union," Krishna said.

Reminding the gathering that SAARC countries represent one-fifth of humanity, Krishna said that it is only through closer economic cooperation that we can harness the region's full potential and bring the fruits of development to its people.

"It is encouraging that we are already considering a SAARC "brand", an indicator of how dynamically this young regional organisation has grown. In fact, SAARC is already being "branded" in some ways, through (a) its regional projects being implemented out of the SAARC Development Fund; (b) increased people-to-people level activities; and (c) establishment of regional entities such as the South Asian University in New Delhi, the SAARC Standards Regional Organisation in Dhaka and the SAARC Arbitration Council in Islamabad. The SAARC "brand" is set to grow stronger in coming decades," Krishna said.

During the course of his address, Krishna also enumerated some of the milestones of SAARC such as the operationalisation of the SAARC Food Bank with a total stock of 2,43,000 MT contributed by all SAARC member states; the establishment of the South Asian University; the SAARC Textiles Museum in New Delhi being on the threshold of establishment and the signing of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters in Colombo.

He also said that people-to-people level exchanges and activities have risen significantly through SAARC training programmes, workshops and cultural activities.

He also said that he was glad that physical connectivity would be strengthened based on the recommendations of the SAARC Transport Ministers Meeting.

"While the government is committed to the process of building deeper regional integration, South Asia is also looking towards its entrepreneurs and businessmen, to play a leading role in promoting economic cooperation and help build a climate of mutual trust and confidence. The need of the hour for South Asia is to move beyond security issues that shackle it, into an era of mutual trust and mutually reinforcing growth and development," he concluded. (ANI)

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