Pokhara: India on Wednesday said it firmly believes that a peaceful and secure neighbourhood will yield "rich dividends" for Saarc countries even as it asserted that time has come to take stock of past decisions of the grouping on which there has been no movement.
In his statement during the 42nd Saarc Standing Committee Meeting in Pokhara, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said India is pursuing with renewed vigour its "neighbourhood first" policy which also translates into priority for Saarc initiatives.
"We believe that there is scope for further rationalisation of Saarc processes. Perhaps the time has come for us to also take stock of past decisions and initiatives, given that there are so many instances of such decisions not seeing any movement for many years," Jaishankar, who arrived here on Monday, said.
"We are firmly of the belief that a peaceful, secure and prosperous neighbourhood will yield rich dividends for all of us," he said.
Noting that the grouping has some useful agreements in the area of security, including the Convention on Terrorism, Narcotic Drugs and on Human Trafficking, Jaishankar said a major challenge that the region faces is that of circulation of fake currency notes.
"This is closely interlinked with the problems of money-laundering, drug trafficking and human trafficking as well as financing of terrorism. It would, therefore, be in the interest of the people of our region for us to collaborate at the Saarc level to tackle this matter," he said.
The Foreign Secretary asserted that connectivity holds the key for prosperity and development and will shape the destinies of all countries of South Asia.
"With this understanding, we have embarked on significant projects in the region in areas such as rail and road building, power generation and transmission, waterway usage and shipping through regional, sub-regional, trilateral and bilateral arrangements. This represents a change of mindset and makes us believe that the logic of regional cooperation has finally arrived in the region," Jaishankar asserted.
"Yet, the pace of regional cooperation as a collective endeavour needs to be hastened, especially in areas that are central to the development agenda of Saarc. In this context, I urge that we sign, at an early date, the Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement and Saarc Railways Agreement," he said.
Finalisation and implementation of these agreements will realise a long standing dream of seamless movement of passengers and cargo through the entire region, he added.
Jaishankar's statement came a day before the Saarc ministerial meeting.
During his Nepal visit, the Foreign Secretary yesterday also called on Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli and met Madhesi leaders.