November 08, 2011

"PM’s statement prior to his departure to Maldives for 17th SAARC Summit"

November 09, 2011

I am leaving today on a visit to the Maldives to attend the XVIIth SAARC Summit being hosted by the President of Maldives, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed in Addu on 10-11 November 2011. This will be the first SAARC meeting south of the Equator. I will thereafter pay a bilateral visit to the Maldives on November 12.

Over the last 26 years of its existence, 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 organized crime and terrorism, among others. It has also created new institutions to promote regional integration such as the South Asian Regional Standards Organization, the South Asian Development Fund and the South Asian University which is based in New Delhi.

The theme of the XVIIth SAARC Summit is “Building Bridges”. We welcome this focus because India has always emphasized the importance of enhanced 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 also in consonance with the observance of the current decade as the “SAARC Decade of Intra-Regional Connectivity”.

At the SAARC Summit, we expect to move forward on the process of liberalization of trade under the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement. We also expect to sign agreements on Implementation of Regional Standards, Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment, Rapid Response to Natural Disasters and establishment of a SAARC Seed Bank.

India will work to promote greater integration as well as the development of a South Asian identity at the forthcoming Summit.

On the margins of the SAARC Summit, I look forward to the opportunity of holding bilateral discussions with other South Asian Heads of State and Government who will be participating in the Summit.

My bilateral visit to Male after the SAARC Summit will be the first Prime Ministerial visit to the Maldives from India in nine years. During this period, our relations have been significantly transformed. I look forward to holding in-depth discussions with President Nasheed on all aspects of our relations and to the honour of addressing the Peoples Majlis in Male. We also expect to conclude concrete agreements to enhance our cooperation in both traditional as well as new areas.

New Delhi
November 9, 2011

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