While Pakistan's blocking has created "disappointment" among the Indian side, which had initiated these proposals, sources maintain that India has already initiated bilateral connectivity pacts with countries within SAARC and yesterday's Motor Vehicle Agreement with Nepal was an example of that.
Stressing the need for better connectivity in the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech at the 18th SAARC Summit said, "Our relations become stronger when we connect the lives of the ordinary citizens of our countries. That is why connectivity and services by rail and road are so important. We should also connect ourselves more by air."

READ MORE: PM Modi, Sharif maintain distance at SAARC Summit
He further said that, "for India, our vision for the region rests on five pillars – trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people – and, all through seamless connectivity."
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa said better connectivity will help economic integration and will boost people-to-people contact in the region.
In her speech at the Summit, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her country was in favour of early signing of the regional motor vehicle and railway agreements and said the pacts will help trade.

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On the connectivity pacts, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said these agreements were discussed at various senior levels and there was no objection from any country but one state has indicated that they need approvals of their internal processes.
However, he did not divulge the name of the county.
Noting that SAARC works on the consensus which was smart and efficient way of working, Akbaruddin said India hopes some "tangible" outcomes as the eight-member bloc has often being accused of not moving fast.
Ahead of the visit by Prime Minister Modi to attend the summit, the cabinet had cleared the signing and ratifying of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement by India, as a member state of SAARC.

PM Modi pitches for boosting economic ties, jacking up trade activities

Seeking to strengthen economic ties within the SAARC region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday proposed a special purpose facility to finance infrastructure projects and called for common standards to speed up trade activities.

"Let's make it even easier for our businesses through a SAARC Business Traveller Card," Modi said in his address to leaders at the 18th SAARC Summit.

Noting that SAARC nations have failed to move with the expected speed, he said, "today, less than five per cent of the region's global trade takes place between us. Even at this modest level, less than 10 per cent of the region's internal trade takes place under SAARC Free Trade Area."

Infrastructure is the region's "greatest weakness and its most pressing need", he said, adding it is harder to travel within the region than to Bangkok or Singapore.

According highest priority to infrastructure development, Modi said the proposed Special Purpose Facility would help in funding projects in the region. Touching upon ease of doing business in India, Modi underlined the need for extending the same to SAARC region.

"I promise to ensure that our facilities at the border will speed up, not slow down, trade. Let's all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paper work less burdensome," he said.

The Prime Minister said that goods travel from one Punjab to the other Punjab through Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Karachi making the journey eleven times longer and the cost four times higher.

Admitting that India, too, has its share of responsibility, because of its size and location, Modi said, "I know that many of your goods, too, have to do a Parikrama of India to reach their destinations".

"We must shrink the distance between our producers and consumers and use the most direct routes of trade. I know India has to lead, and we will do our part. I hope, each of you will, too," he said.

The Prime Minister emphasised that nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than in South Asia and "nowhere else is it so modest."

Even though Indian companies are investing billions abroad, Modi said that less than one per cent of it flows into the SAARC region.

"We will address your concerns and give you a level-playing field in India. But, I encourage you to attract Indian investments to produce for the Indian market and create jobs for your youth.

"I also look to a future when your companies can easily raise funds in India for investments at home; and, when we have cross-border industrial corridors, so that we can take advantage of the natural synergies and connected lives in our border states," the Prime Minister said.

To boost trade activities among member countries, Modi said India would now give business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC.

Talking about various efforts and initiatives with SAARC countries, Modi said India would soon launch a new arrangement to meet Maldives' need for oil.

"India and Bangladesh have deepened their links through rail, road, power and transit," he said, adding that a new era of co-operation in energy has started with Nepal.

"Distance and difficulties have not held back India and Afghanistan... And, bus and train sustain contacts between people in India and Pakistan," the Prime Minister said.
India has given five South Asian partners duty free access to 99.7 percent of their goods and prepared to do more with others, he added.

"For India, it has been a privilege to provide assistance of nearly 8 billion US dollars in South Asia over a decade. It may not seem a great amount in these times, but we are grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference to the lives of a few brothers and sisters in our region," Modi said.

According to Modi, India's vision for the SAARC region rests on five pillars trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people through seamless connectivity.

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