India committed to deeper financial integration with SAARC
India on Wednesday expressed its commitment to forge a deeper financial integration with the SAARC nations to achieve the South Asian Economic Union, aimed at increasing trade within and from outside the member countries.
Speaking at the 42nd SAARC Standing Committee Meeting in Pokhara, Nepal Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar highlighted several initiatives taken by the government of India to foster such integration with the region.
“Free flow of capital is an essential element to increase trade in the region. Initiatives that we have offered from our side to enable such integration include offering a currency swap arrangement for SAARC countries to overcome shortage in foreign currency and capacity building programmes in the areas of taxation and customs,” Jaishankar said.
The foreign secretary said that the Modi-led government has made unilateral concessions to the least developed countries (LDCs) by giving duty-free access on all but 25 products.
“We have recently shared our model text of the Agreement on Promotion & Protection of Investments to SAARC Secretariat, as agreed earlier. We urge our relevant group of experts to start work on details of this Agreement within the SAARC framework,” Jaishankar said.
The secretary underscored the need to improve connectivity in the South Asian regions as, he said, this will bring prosperity and development in the neighbourhood. “With this understanding, we have embarked on significant projects in the region in areas such as rail and road building, power generation and transmission, waterway usage and shipping through regional, sub-regional, trilateral and bilateral arrangements,” he said.
Since it came to power in May 2014 the Modi-led government, has encouraged neighbouring countries to coordinate with one another. This could benefit the SAARC nations in their respective as well as unilateral development agendas.
Jaishankar urged the member countries to ink the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Railways Agreement acts to ensure unhindered movement of passengers and cargo through the region.
However, in what seemed contrary to the government’s “Neighbourhood First”, theory, the Finance Minister, in his recent Union Budget speech had revealed that the Govt had reduced the amount of development assistance extended to the SAARC members.
March 16, 2016 | 06:05pm IST