PM’s address to SAARC

On formally assuming office in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear to the world that in regard to India’s foreign policy, good and fraternal relations with SAARC countries was his priority. In pursuance of this policy, he had invited the SAARC heads of Governments to his oath-taking ceremony. In his 30-minute presentation at Kathmandu on the occasion of his maiden address to the organization, he said that while the whole world congratulated him on assuming the high office, he was especially moved by the interest shown by SAARC heads of Government who made it possible to respond positively to his invitation and were present on the occasion. This clearly reflected how much serious he is about India having good and close relations with SAARC countries.
The thrust of his half an hour long speech was precisely on this theme. What has been India’s contribution to the SAARC in the past, and what is Modi’s vision of India’s future contribution to phenomenally strengthen SAARC, formed the crux of his speech. Observers believe that he was responding to the nefarious propaganda of some circles that SAARC had failed to achieve anything and that India was creating obstructions in the way of SAARC. He began by paying homage to the martyrs of terrorists’ Mumbai carnage of 2008 in which 162 persons lost their lives and many more were injured. The day of their martyrdom synchronized with the opening of SAARC Summit in Kathmandu. Thus Modi found an apt occasion to make a mention of the tragedy and remind the member states that they had a commitment to fight and eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Of course, Modi’s reference to Mumbai carnage must have made Nawaz Sharif nervous because in all probability if he expected the issue of terrorism to be raised in the session, he did not expect that pointed reference to Mumbai carnage would be made by the Indian Prime Minister. After all Modi meant to convey indirectly to the Summit meet that it was the terrorist organization of Pakistan that had conducted the heinous crime of 26/11.
Pakistan’s obsession is that India wants to play the role of a big brother in the SAARC and that is not acceptable to her. This is a mere figment of imagination and not a reality. Modi gave more than necessary hints that India considers herself one among the equals. But owing to her geographical size and human resource potential, India is expected to contribute in a major way to the strengthening of the SAARC. This is no big brotherly attitude. When Modi says that the future he wishes for India is the future he wishes for our entire South Asia what more clarity should one expect from him to assert that he wants the member countries to be equals in letter and in spirit?  South Asia is a sensitive and strategically very crucial region and there is a deep desire among the countries from the middle of the Pacific to the Atlantic for integration of resources, development, trade and connectivity. The SAARC countries have adopted democracy as their political prescription and this is a remarkable guarantee of exchanging experience earned from democratic dispensation among the SAARC countries.
There are many developments which would augur well for the SAARC and which are a befitting rebuff to the messengers of doom and despondency. India and Bangladesh have deepened their links through rail, road, power and transit. India and Nepal have started a new era of cooperation in energy and, India and Bhutan are making those ties stronger by the day.
Modi also gave a vision about what SAARC can achieve once member countries develop understanding on the roadmap to cooperation and collaboration. He was candid in saying that shortcomings had overtaken SAARC in the past and the organization has not been able to meet the expectations of the people. But that should not deter member countries from taking more positive steps to activate their pursuits. All have to make their respective procedures simple, their facilities better, their standards common and their paper work less burdensome. By joining hands and walking in step, the path becomes easier, the journey quicker and the destination closer.
From PM Modi’s speech one could infer that India proposes to take to kick start renewed programme for the SAARC. India will now give business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC countries. India will also provide many facilities to promote trade and connectivity among SAARC countries. PM indicated that there was vast scope of expansion of trade, commerce, tourism, space science and cooperation in medical assistance areas and that these matters needed to be addressed. With all said and done, PM Modi has made successful effort to make clear to the SAARC members that firstly India was not at all imposing herself as the big brother and secondly India was fully conscious of her moral and factual duties towards the SAARC fraternity.

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