Kathmandu,26 November 2014:Â The full text of the statement by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the inaugural session of the 18th SAARC Summit held at City Hall today is as follows:
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala ji, my colleagues from South AsiI am delighted to return to Kathmandu.
Koiralaji, congratulations on organising an excellent Summit.
Thank you, Nepal, for your warm hospitality once again.
Greetings to the Observer countries present here.
This is my fist SAARC. But, this is the second time I meeting most of you together. I stepped into the office with the greetings of the entire world.
But, what moved me, dear colleagues, was your personal presence, with the good wishes of one-fourth of humanity.
Because the future I dream for India is the future I wish for our entire region.
The last Summit was three years ago. Only two of us here were present in Addu. Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has come here after her re-election. President Rajapaksa will soon go into one and I wish him good luck. I especially welcome our newest colleague, President Ghani.
Ours is a region of thriving democracy; of rich inheritance; the unmatched strength of youth; and, a strong thirst for change and progress.
In the last few months, I have travelled around the world.
From the middle of the Pacific, to the southern coast of Atlantic Ocean, I see a rising tide of integration.
And, negotiations on major trade agreements such as Regional comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Because the barriers of boundaries inhibit progress; international partnerships add speed to it.
Because, in the life of an individual or a nation, a good neighbourhood is a universal aspiration.
Where does South Asia wish to stand in this world?
Nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than in South Asia; and, nowhere else is it so modest.
Big and small, we face the same challenges- a long climb to the summit of development.
But, I have great belief in our boundless potential; and, confidence-that comes from the many inspiring stories of innovation and initiative in each of our countries.
There is much to learn from each other; even more – to do together.
That was the vision and aspiration that brought us together as SAARC 30 years ago. We have travelled a long distance together since then.
We have an agreement, an institution or a framework of cooperation in every field. We also have many successes.
Just think of what we are doing to our consumers – and to our environment!
We must shrink the distance between our producers and consumers and use the most direct routes of trade. I know India has to lead, and we will do our part. I hope, each of you will, too.
Infrastructure is our region’s greatest weakness and it’s most pressing needs.
When I thought of coming to Kathmandu by road, it made many officials in India nervous.
Because of the condition of roads at the border!
Infrastructure is my greatest priority in India. And, I also want to set up a Special Purpose Facility in India to finance infrastructure projects in our region that enhances our connectivity and trade.
We speak of ease of doing business in India. Let’s extend this to our region. I promise to ensure that our facilities at the border will speed up, not slow down, trade.
Let’s all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paper workless burdensome.
India will now give business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC. Let’s make it even easier for our businesses through a SAARC Business Traveller Card.
Excellencies, India has a huge trade surplus with SAARC countries. I believe that this neither right nor sustainable.
We will address your concerns and give you a level playing field in India. But, I encourage you to attract Indian investments to produce for the Indian market and create jobs for your youth.
I also look to a future when your companies can easily raise funds in India for investments at home; and, when we have cross-border industrial corridors, so that we can take advantage of the natural synergies and connected lives in our Border States.
I also believe that if we can light up each other’s towns and villages, we can build a brighter tomorrow for our region.
Or, face a future when someone looks down at us from Space, and says that this is world’s darkest corner.
Let us treat electricity as a commodity like any other that we invest and trade in. India will fully support these initiatives in the region.
We should also think with ambition to use solar energy and micro grids to quickly provide clean power to villages across the region.
Our relations become stronger when we connect the lives of the ordinary citizens of our countries. That is why connectivity and services by rail and road are so important. We should also connect ourselves more by air.
We will not only make a difference to the lives of our people, but also promote tourism in the region.
We should use the strength of shared heritage and our diversity to encourage tourism within our region, and present South Asia to the world. We could begin with the Buddhist circuit, but we don’t have to stop there.
As we seek to build bridges to prosperity, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to the millions living through SAARC or outside it.
Among us or some of us.
We can all choose our paths to our destinations. But when we join our hands and walk in step, the path becomes easier, the journey quicker and the destination closer.
I say this as much to my government and people, I say to you.
We are meeting in the lap of himalaya, which has nurtured us ages. Today, it is calling us to act.
let us work to change cynicism into optimism.
Let us turn South Asia of flowering hope into a rich field of peace and prosperity.