Connectivity is central to the development of south Asian nations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday.
“Connectivity is central to our development and will determine how we meet our goals of growth, employment, and prosperity,” Sushma Swaraj said while addressing the 37th session of the council of ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Nepalese city of Pokhara.
“As we seek to overcome problems of physical connectivity, it is important for us to move forward quickly on pending agreements on rail and motor vehicles,” she said.
“Economic activities, cultural connections and people to people contacts will flow naturally from such connectivity.”
South Asian region is hailed today as having the potential to be the front-runner of growth and prosperity, Sushma Swaraj added.
Sushma Swaraj lamented that despite strong growth and huge advances in education, healthcare and rural development, the south Asian region still had the world’s largest number of people living below the poverty line.
“We continue to face significant challenges in delivering food security, health, nutrition and education to our peoples,” she said.
“All this goes to show that while we are doing well individually, we have not been able to unleash our collective strength effectively. We must think innovatively and find solutions so that we may harness our economic complementarities and ensure a conducive environment for rapid growth.”
She said the Indian government has shown its commitment to a "neighbourhood first” policy from its very first day in office.
Sushma Swaraj also sought support for a Saarc Environment and Disaster Management Centre in India.
Pointing out that SAARC was about positive synergy that would allow each of its members to achieve their full potential, she said: “We must recognise that we have common enemies in poverty, illiteracy, terrorism and environmental degradation. We will need to fight these challenges together since we have a shared history, and a shared destiny.”