Puducherry: Observing that the world was passing through troubled times, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the Euro zone crisis should not cast a shadow on efforts to build unity and eventually a South Asian union.

"The world is passing through troubled times. The financial and economic crisis that has gripped Europe has many important lessons and implications for us," he said declaring open the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute for South Asia Regional Cooperation here.

"The events in the Euro zone should not cast a shadow over our own efforts at building unity and eventually a South Asian union," he said noting that people of South Asia always want to see our countries live together in peace and work together for common progress.

He lamented that "If anything, we have not been ambitious enough in working towards building a united South Asia where each of our countries seeks its economic and social salvation through cooperative development within the region and by leveraging each other’s strengths."

Recalling the vision of thinkers like of George Marshall and Jean Monnet, who believed that stable, prosperous and united Europe was good for the world, Singh said, "I sincerely hope that the leaders of Europe will find in them the imagination and wisdom to preserve the European project that has served as a guiding light to regional cooperation elsewhere in the world, including South Asia."

Noting that Madanjeet Singh had set up the South Asia Foundation in 2000 to provide a platform for well-meaning men and women from all the countries of the region to contribute to the progress of South Asia, he said, he was happy to know that very soon Myanmar will also have a chapter of the Foundation.

"I was in Myanmar recently and was impressed by the enthusiasm and interest of the Myanmar people to strengthen and promote links with South Asia," Singh, on a two-day visit to the Union territory said.

Maintaining that India was "fully committed to the idea of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)," Singh said in the recent Summit meetings, he found a "genuine desire" among South Asian leaders to write a new chapter in the history of the organisation.

Holding that important initiatives that symbolize the idea of South Asia were "taking shape," he said, "The South Asia University has started and will soon have its own full-fledged campus outside Delhi. The SAARC Development Fund has become operational and has started implementing projects under its social window."

However, he said, there was a need to cooperate more closely to critically understand issues relating to food, energy and water security, disaster management and health and address them from a holistic and regional perspective.

Singh said that connectivity was also "still lagging far behind where it should be" and India stood fully committed to building a better-connected SAARC as a strong and effective instrument for regional cooperation.

(Agencies)

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