India committed to peace and devp in SAARC: Pranab

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New Delhi, Feb 15: With Pakistan slated to go to polls on Monday, India today reaffirmed that it attached highest priority to closer ties with neighbours and remained committed to peace and development in the SAARC region. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who chaired a meeting of the Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry, said India was also concerned about the situation in Afghanistan.

Briefing reporters about the meeting, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said Mr Mukherjee reaffirmed New Delhi's commitment to good relations with Islamabad. He gave an overview of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan ''which remains of concern to us.'' Mr Mukheerjee apprised the members about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to China and developments in the SAARC region including the setting of a SAARC university and SAARC Food Bank.

The Minister briefed the members about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar and said India viewed SAARC as an ''integrated region.'' ''India attaches highest priority for closer ties with neighbours and views SAARC as an integrated region having free flow of goods and people,'' the Minister told the meeting.

He also stressed on cooperation between the countries of the region for combating terrorism and extremism and enhancing trade and economic linkages.

He said India stood ready to assist Nepal in its transition towards democracy and was constantly watching the developments in the Himalayan kingdom.

The Minister also told the meeting that India stressed on closer ties with Bhutan and highlighted the developmental programme between the two countries.

He also explained the situation in Myanmar and Sri Lanka saying India had taken several steps to improve bilateral ties with these countries.


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