Integrate South Asia

  • With Prime Minister Narendra Modi setting off for the 18th Saarc Summit in Kathmandu, one key issue for the regional grouping is physical connectivity .
  • In this regard, the Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement is an important item on the summit agenda.
  • The agreement aims to create suitable conditions for seamless movement of goods and people through land routes across the eight Saarc member nations.
  • Along with the proposed Saarc Regional Railways Agreement, the initiative is a big step forward for a region that has traditionally suffered from poor interconnection.
  • Contrast this with China's grand plans for intra-regional and even inter-continental connectivity.
  • Beijing's plans to promote a Silk Road Economic Belt is premised on massive construction of rail routes and roadways.
  • Better connectivity within the Saarc region will ramp up trade, provide a fillip to regional tourism and close interaction between the subcontinent's peoples.
  • The proposed India-Nepal Buddhist tourism circuit will achieve little traction without quality transportation infrastructure.
  • In the same vein, Modi's earlier proposal of building a Saarc satellite can help promote digital connectivity in South Asia, facilitating free flow of data and information.
  • The plan for a regional power grid too is important to address energy security among Saarc members.
  • If the Motor Vehicles Act goes through and Pakistan allows entry and transit of Indian goods and vehicles, this would be a major ice breaker between India and Pakistan.
  • To galvanise the development of South Asia ,Saarc must push regional integration on a war footing.