President asks SAARC nations to look at shared future

New Delhi, Nov. 19 : President Pranab Mukherjee has urged the SAARC nations to look at a shared future leaving behind the divisions of the past.

Delivering the Cavalry Memorial Lecture organized by the Cavalry Officers’ Association, President Mukherjee said in the long history of world diplomacy, relations between countries have seen many ups and downs.

“Europe was the arena for two World Wars. Major European powers fought battles with each other for centuries. However, in the second half of the previous century, they imbibed lessons from history and decided to work together,” said President Mukherjee.

“They created a common market and common currency. They created a European Union and a European Parliament. One of the most important inventions which have changed the world is the Internet, which is a product of the peace dividend in Europe,” he added.

President Mukherjee said the SAARC, which was established on December 8, 1985, has in the last thirty years created many mechanisms and institutions on the model of the European Union.

“It is, however, widely accepted that the full potential of SAARC is yet to be realized. We can change our friends but not our neighbours,” said President Mukherjee.

“It is for us to decide if we want to live in a state of perpetual tension or develop together in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. We must look at a shared future leaving behind the divisions of the past,” he added.

The President said the relations between India and Bangladesh is a good example of progress in looking at a shared future.

“India-Bangladesh relations today are the best ever since 1974. They are based on mutual benefit, equality and respect for sovereignty,” said President Mukherjee.

“India and Bangladesh are not just neighbours. We are two nations bound by the threads of history, religion, culture, language and kinship. Our growing cooperation is a picture of shared prosperity amongst neighbours,” he added.

President Mukherjee said India attaches the highest importance to bilateral relations with Bangladesh.

“We have always believed that strong, stable and prosperous neighbours are in our interest. With Bangladesh, we now need to recapture the spirit of the Liberation War of 1971 to build a new future,” he added.

President Mukherjee emphasized that connectivity is the catalyst for deeper engagement.

“We have launched three bus services that will connect our citizens more easily. Connectivity by road, rail, rivers, sea, transmission lines, petroleum pipelines and digital links must increase. Regional connectivity and cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal must also be deepened,” said President Mukherjee.

“Mutually beneficial arrangements allowing movement of goods from Bangladesh through India to Nepal and Bhutan and from mainland India through Bangladesh to India’s North-east have been worked out. These are significant steps forward which have been enabled by the close cooperation and frequent interaction of senior leaders of the two countries,” he added.

Asserting that we must move towards greater economic integration, President Mukherjee said South Asia should become an integrated market.

“A seamless assembly line as well as regional value chains for global markets should be created. Indian and Bangladesh businessmen are already collaborating in fields such as readymade garments, textiles, leather and pharmaceuticals. There exists huge potential for doing same in food processing, light engineering goods, ship building and auto components,” he added.

President Mukherjee said the Indian investments in Bangladesh will help to create jobs and upgrade technology.

“These will make Bangladesh economy more competitive and increase exports. Indian investments in Bangladesh will help to create jobs and upgrade technology. These will make Bangladesh economy more competitive and increase exports,” said President Mukherjee.

“It is for this reason that the two governments have agreed to cooperate to set up an Indian Special Economic Zone in Bangladesh. This is another big step forward towards restoring historic connections between our business communities, which will serve both well,” he added.

President Mukherjee said Bangladesh and India must come together as large consumers to develop and purchase cheap and clean energy.

“There is huge untapped potential to develop renewable energy like solar and wind. As our economies get more integrated and our people better connected, our nations will become more prosperous. It will also open new economic doors for India’s Northeast. It will enable our two countries to integrate South Asia and connect it with the dynamic East,” he added.

President Mukherjee said he was confident that India-Bangladesh relations will always remain special and unique in the annals of South Asian history.

“The stage is now set for a quantum jump in our relations,” he said.

He expressed confidence that the coming days will see a significant intensification of co-operation to eradicate poverty, enhance growth, promote trade and investment as well as fight the forces of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism. (ANI)