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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Modi urges Saarc nations to work towards poverty-free South Asia
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Modi urges Saarc nations to work towards poverty-free South Asia

Modi calls on all governments in South Asia to jointly draw a plan and work with India to eliminate poverty from the region

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the South Asian region has the potential to become a global power hub. Photo: APPremium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the South Asian region has the potential to become a global power hub. Photo: AP

New Delhi: Extending a hand of cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called on all governments in South Asia to draw a plan and work with India to eliminate poverty from the region, which he said had the potential to become a global power.

In his speech from the Red Fort on India’s 68th Independence Day, Modi, the country’s first Prime Minister born after India achieved independence from British rule in 1947, called on neighbours to leave aside violence and differences and work towards a poverty-free South Asia.

The call evoked memories of Modi’s unpredecented out-of-the box gesture of inviting leaders of all South Asian countries to his swearing-in ceremony when he took the oath of office on 26 May.

Modi on Friday recalled that all Indians had united in the fight for freedom against British rule and won.

“When we fought for independence from British rule, we fought it together. At that time, we were not separate, we were together. Which government was with us? What weapons did we have? We had one Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of freedom fighters," he said.

“There was a huge empire and did we not win the fight for independence? it is the demand of the time—can we not (win) against poverty?" he said, adding, “The neighbours of India also have the same problem. Why don’t we member states of Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) together make a plan to fight poverty, eliminate poverty?"

In a statement that could be interpreted as a call to Pakistan, though he did not refer to it by name, Modi said: “We fight together to defeat poverty. Let us make this attempt once... leave aside the world of violence and see what happiness there is in living (together)."

The comment assumes significance as earlier this week, India and Pakistan were engaged in a war of words on terrorism. India has been accusing Pakistan of fomenting terrorism to destabilize the country.

“I want the cooperation of all neighbours in this...fight against poverty. I want their cooperation and will cooperate with them. All Saarc states together can emerge as a power in the world. What we need to do is work together, move ahead with the dream of defeating poverty."

Recalling his recent visits to India’s neighbours, Nepal and Bhutan, and the presence of all Saarc leaders at his oath-taking ceremony on 26 May, Modi said: “Saarc leaders came for the swearing-in ceremony, a good beginning has been made. I am confident that we will get good results."

Meanwhile, in a message posted on micro blogging website Twitter, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif greeted his Indian counterpart on the occasion of Independence Day. “India’s Independence Day wishing prosperity to the people of India," it said.

Modi’s gesture and Sharif’s wishes seem to set aside for the moment the tensions between the two countries on display earlier this week when the verbal exchange over terrorism took place after Pakistan took umbrage at Modi’s remark that Pakistan was carrying on a “proxy war of terrorism" against India.

The sharp exchange came before foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan sit down for talks in Islamabad on 25 August to explore ways to carry forward their peace dialogue.

Described as “talks about talks", it will be the first meeting of the foreign secretaries in two years and flows from the meeting between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi on the occasion of Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s independence day, Sharif in a speech said Pakistan wanted a “peaceful resolution of that by removing this main source of tension, Pakistan and India can find new ways to promote their relations."

And taking this a step further, the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit, said Islamabad extends “full diplomatic and moral support" to the “legitimate struggle" of Kashmiris.

India and Pakistan have fought three of their four wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.

Both countries claim the Himalayan region in its entirety put administer it in parts. India accuses of Pakistan of fomenting an Islamic insurgency in Kashmir and supporting bombings and attacks by Islamist militants in other parts of India. Both charges are denied by Pakistan.

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Updated: 15 Aug 2014, 07:19 PM IST
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