Amit Baruah

Our vision for SAARC is regionalism, says Pranab Mukherjee

  • Press must create "proper understanding" between countries
  • Media is a torch-bearer of better people-to-people ties

    NEW DELHI: India does not seek an exclusive sphere of influence, but a shared sphere of mutual development and cooperation in South Asia, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a conference of distinguished editors from the region here on Saturday.

    "Our vision for the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] is one of regionalism," Mr. Mukherjee said, pointing out that India's support for the entry of China and Japan as observers into the SAARC underlined New Delhi's commitment to open regionalism.

    Referring to the recent signing of an updated friendship treaty between India and Bhutan, the Minister said: "This reflects that India wants to extend its hand of cooperation to all countries on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect."

    Mr. Mukherjee said India was conscious that no South Asian nation could succeed on its own. "We must create a stake for every nation in the economic success of the other. As we prepare to host the next SAARC summit, India will take the initiative in accelerating regional economic and political cooperation."

    Transborder links

    "We will play a positive role in the establishment of new transborder transport networks and energy corridors so that the 14th summit of SAARC countries gives a clear signal for improving connectivity within the sub-continent by ensuring free flow of trade, commerce, goods, people and ideas," he said.

    The Minister said that he had visited Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past few weeks to invite Prime Ministers and Presidents to attend the 14th SAARC summit.

    Common future

    "Only one country of SAARC I have not visited, that is Bangladesh, which I would be doing shortly before the end of this month," he said. "My visits have not only provided me an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest but also strengthened in my mind the conviction that the South Asian sub-continent has a common future... "

    Growth of media

    Pointing to the dynamic growth of the media in the SAARC region, Mr. Mukherjee said that given its enormous reach, there was a need, more than ever before, for the press to be fully aware of its power and responsibility to create "proper understanding" between neighbouring countries.

    "In many ways, the media is the torch-bearer of better people-to-people contacts. This only highlights the need for media persons as well as media products to move easily across our borders," the Minister said.

    ``It can correct a wrong''

    "One sentence from any of you [the editors attending the conference] has the potential to reach millions. It can correct a wrong; it can create an image; it can plant a seed of understanding. I would encourage that such conferences be held regularly... " Mr. Mukherjee suggested.

    The External Affairs Minister felt gratified that the conference, a public-private enterprise, organised by his Ministry and the Media Development Foundation, a Chennai-based not-for-profit public trust that runs the Asian College of Journalism, had succeeded in bringing together eminent editors from all the SAARC countries.

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