Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday rooted for greater economic integration and connectivity in South Asia.
Singh, in his address at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit here on Thursday, announced the reduction of the 'sensitive list' for least-developed countries under the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement (SAFTA).
It will be reduced from the existing 480 tariff lines to 25 tariff lines.
Singh said India will immediately give zero basic customs duty access to all items removed from the list.
“I am happy to announce that in a major trade liberalisation effort, the government of India has issued a notification to reduce the sensitive list for least-developed countries under the SAFTA from 480 tariff lines to 25 tariff lines to boost trade,” Singh said.
Singh also said India is committed to building capacities of SAARC nations.
Among the measures announced by Singh are an increase in scholarships at the New Delhi-based South Asian University from 50 to 100, of which 75 would be for masters and 25 for doctoral research, apart from 10 scholarships for post-graduate and doctoral studies at the Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute.
Manmohan Singh also said India will host a conclave of a top dozen tour operators of South Asia in New Delhi to boost tourism, apart from initiatives to set up a travelling exhibition of 100 archeologically-significant pieces. These could be hosted by member-nations in their museums for three months each.
According to Singh, protecting the environment while pursuing rapid growth is essential, and added that the India Endowment for Climate Change, which he had announced last year, had been established.
Need more time on Teesta water pact
Singh, while meeting his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the SARC summit, said India will need more time to sign the Teesta water sharing pact.
The Teesta deal was not clinched after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee did not come on board when Singh went to Bangladesh in September.
Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said the Centre will consult all stakeholders before signing it.