Reinvigorating interest in South Asian economies

South asia economy

Regional integration is an imperative to face shared challenges and realize shared goals, says the foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai.

In his inaugural address at the 'Driving South Asia Economic Integration' conference, organized by CII in New Delhi on Monday, the foreign secretary said, "Regional integration is not only important, but an imperative if we want to realize shared goals and face shared challenges."

The countries in the region, he elaborated, are marked by great commonalities as well as diversity, face the same challenges of poverty and development and share the same goals and aspirations of a developing region with a sizeable young population.

According to Mathai, India is spearheading an initiative to develop a currency swap agreement among SAARC countries which would help them protect their currencies during special exigencies.

On the SAARC agreement to develop a food security reserve, he said that "currently India has to hold reserves of 3 lakh metric tonnes of food including both wheat and rice out of the 4.86 lakh metric tonnes envisaged in the group as a whole."

The reserve would be used to provide help to member nations during food emergencies.

He spoke of the need to identify and address the economic challenges and said we need to address trade imbalances that exist, among other measures. India, he said, has taken several steps

to improve political and economic ties in the region, mentioning the SAFTA Ministerial Council Meetings, the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, SAARC Trade Fairs all of which work towards the economic and social advancement of the region.

A major initiative in this direction, he said was the SAARC Development Fund, which focuses

on the social, economic and infrastructure development of the region. He also spoke of the steps taken to improve ties with neighbouring countries Pakistan and Bangladesh, saying India had accorded Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and Indian companies such as Airtel and Arvind Mills are investing in Bangladesh.

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