India today has asked the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to unleash the “collective strength” to further work together. External Affairs minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj has stated the need for establishing a South Asian Economic Union with much greater connectivity and fast track pending agreements on rail and motor vehicles.
- Swaraj said that although the SAARC countries are doing well individually but there is a lacking in unleashing their collective strength. She also said that the SAARC countries in the 37th SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in Pokahara have taken some important decisions to integrate their economies through SAFTA and South Asian Trade in Services Agreement.
- Despite the South Asian countries being held as one of the fastest growing regions in the world with a steady potential of being the front-runner for growth and development, collective regional integration is what the countries have to focus the most. She further added that despite having strong growth in education, healthcare and rural development the region still accounts for one of the world’s largest number of people living below the poverty line.
- Sawarj also said that India is well prepared to take up any challenge and is willing to work within the region for the development goals. The country has also moved towards bringing in a slew of initiatives including a dedicated satellite for SAARC to support applications in health, education, disaster response, weather forecasting and communications for our people, establishing a supra-national laboratory to combat diseases like TB and AIDS, creation of a SAARC wide Knowledge Network to interlink our students, academic and research communities, and organisation of the first SAARC Annual Disaster Management Exercise. She also added that India is willing to welcome support from its fellow SAARC countries for a SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre in India.
- Lastly, Ms. Swaraj said that all the SAARC nations have common ‘nemesis’ in poverty, illiteracy, terrorism and environmental degradation and working collectively is what will benefit all of them.