Financial Express, India
India urges Pakistan to comply with Safta
21 March 2007
NEW DELHI, MAR 20 : Ahead of the Saarc summit here in April, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday cautioned Pakistan against non-compliance with Saarc Free Trade Area (Safta). He urged Islamabad to revise its position to ensure that global commitments undertaken by the latter were complied with.
While inaugurating a day-long conference organised by the research and information system for developing countries (RIS) and South Asia centre for policy studies (SACEPS) on Monday, the minister said, “Otherwise Safta and the process of regional economic cooperation will continue to stay fragile.”
“In the subcontinent, we must simultaneously resolve political differences and expand economic integration,” Mukherjee said, adding, the realisation of genuine free trade in the region should not be undermined by linking Safta to “extraneous political considerations”.
According to him, complementarities in the region should encourage one to expand the scope of Safta to cover trade in the services sector. India was also hopeful of finalising “the agreement for promotion and protection of investments”, which would contribute to further economic integration in the region, he said.
Highlighting the need to reduce poverty, one of the prime deterrents to economic growth, he said : “There is today, the real prospect of ending economic poverty in the Saarc region.” Urging “positive and concrete action” by South Asian countries, he said : “We need to discuss ways to upgrade regional economic cooperation, including Safta.”
“Letting these opportunities pass by will only lead to our region falling further behind, while the rest of the world economy marches ahead,” he told the seminar attended by diplomats, academicians and various think tanks.
“It is a matter of concern that while countries in South Asia is integrating with the global economy, they remain less integrated among themselves,” Mukherjee added.