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Trade not tension should be the mantra for South Asian Prosperity - Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale

Nov 01, 2018


NEW DELHI, 1 November 2018: Foreign Secretary, Mr. Vijay Gokhale, said today that trade not tension should be the mantra amongst the key pillars for South Asian prosperity.

Inaugurating the 'South Asia Regional Connectivity Conference', organised by FICCI jointly with CUTS International with the support of US Government, Mr Gokhale said that India�s centrality in South Asia and in the Indo-Pacific region is getting fresh recognition as the global power shifts to the east.

Elaborating on a 'free, open and inclusive' Indo-Pacific, he said that India's approach was to work with all the nations in the Indo-pacific region for a lasting partnership. He emphasised the need to build regional connectivity projects under a rules based order.

Mr Gokhale also added that physical connectivity, people-to-people connect and knowledge connectivity were the defining parameters in South Asia and appealed to nearly 300 regional stakeholders from South Asia present during the conference to think of out of the box to supplement the efforts being made by the Indian government.

Mr Vikramjit Singh Sahney, Senior National Executive Member, FICCI, underlined the need for greater regional connectivity through inland and maritime waterways, multimodal transport connectivity and greater connectivity through the air route.

Applauding the initiatives undertaken by the Government of India and FICCI to promote regional engagement in South Asia, Mr. Sahney said that the signing of Motor Vehicular Agreement among the BBIN countries and its effective implementation was the cornerstone for transport connectivity, people-to- people connect and smooth flow of trade and commerce.

The South Asian region is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. The region boasts of a growing trade and investment potential and emerging young demographics which has the potential to reap a demographic dividend. However, the intra-regional trade in South Asia continues to remain low due to limited connectivity, non-tariff barriers, onerous logistics and regulatory impediments. In this respect, Mr. Sahney emphasized the need for greater regional cooperation and integration among the South Asian countries. 

Mr Kenneth Juster, US Ambassador to India, highlighted the need for private sector-led development in South Asia. While enunciating the US-led initiatives for regional connectivity, he expressed the need to have a well thought out legislation on data localisation and to manage connectivity efficiently so that risks emanating from greater connectivity can be better managed.

Mr Kenji Hiramatsu, Japanese Ambassador to India, spoke of the specific regional connectivity projects being jointly executed by India and Japan and stressed upon 'quality' infrastructure as a prerequisite to sustainable regional connectivity.

The inaugural session was moderated by Mr Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International.