India expects liberalisation of trade under SAFTA


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India expects to move forward on the process of liberalisation of trade under the SAFTA and will work to promote greater integration and development of a South Asian identity at the SAARC Summit beginning in the Maldives on Thursday.
In his departure statement, he said the SAARC countries expect to sign agreements on Implementation of Regional Standards (IRS), multilateral arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment, rapid response to natural disasters and establishment of SAARC Seed Bank.
Prime Minister Manmohan is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the margins of the summit. Later, he will fly to Male, capital of the Maldives, for bilateral meeting with President Nasheed. The Indian premier said that SAARC has established itself as the leading mechanism for regional cooperation in South Asia.
It has enabled enhanced cooperation within the region in a wide range of areas such as trade, connectivity, poverty alleviation, food security, women and child development, combating organised crime and terrorism, among others. It has also created new institutions to promote regional integration such as the South Asian Regional Standards Organisation, South Asian Development Fund and South Asian University which is based in New Delhi.
Noting that the theme of the summit is ‘building bridges,’ he said India welcomes this focus, it has always emphasised the importance of enhance connectivity for the socio-economic development of the South Asian region. “We have undertaken several initiatives to improve connectivity on a bilateral, sub-regional and regional basis, and are willing to do much more. The theme is in consonance with the observance of the current decade as the ‘SAARC Decade of Intra Regional Connectivity,’” he said.
The prime minister said on the margins of the summit he looks forward to the opportunity of holding bilateral discussions with other South Asian heads of state and government who will be participating in the summit. He said that his bilateral visit to Male after the SAARC Summit will be the first prime ministerial visit from India in nine years.