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'Remove barriers for free flow of people, goods'

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee says the region has "tremendous potential" for building of its economies.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 19:13 IST

Seeking cooperation from SAARC countries for dismantling of barriers to allow free flow of goods and people across South Asia, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said the region has "tremendous potential" for building of its economies.

Mukherjee, who arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit to extend an invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for the 14th New Delhi SAARC Summit and hold talks on bilateral issues, also pressed for the early implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.

"We are seeking cooperation from regional countries that the 14th SAARC Summit should be giving a clear signal for removing barriers and ensuring connectivity in the sub-continent for free flow of trade goods, people and ideas," Mukherjee told reporters.

He said the region has "tremendous potential" for building of its economies and there needed to be connectivity among the south Asian countries to ensure its realisation.

The statement of Mukherjee, on his first visit as external affairs minister, assumes significance as India has been trying to persuade Pakistan to allow road access to Afghanistan but without any success.

Operationalisation of SAFTA will be beneficial for all the member countries of SAARC, he said.

New Delhi has also accused Islamabad of not implementing the SAFTA Summit in letter and spirit and the matter is now before the SAARC council of commerce ministers.

The minister said SAARC has become an extended family with the inclusion of Afghanistan and possibility of observer status being given to Japan, US and European Union.