PM talks ‘strong SAARC’ with neighbours

RSTV Bureau

PM with Sri lanka President

Taking forward his ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed matters of regional and bilateral cooperation on Sunday with top leaders of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

PM reaffirmed his commitment to make the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) a strong regional block.

MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that PM in his meetings with the three neighbouring leaders discussed various other issues of common concerns for SAARC block and reiterated his commitment to ‘neighbours first’ policy.

During bilateral meetings, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala congratulated PM on his first UN speech and promised full support for his initiative of having an International Yoga Day.

International Yoga Day once a year, which he made during his 35-minute speech at the UN General Assembly.

Within hours of it being mooted, Rajapaksa gave his support in writing to the initiative which would need to be ratified by the UN General Assembly by September 2015 for coming into effect.

The three leaders also said that they were looking forward to Modi’s visit to their respective countries, including for the SAARC summit in Nepal later this year.

PM Modi told Nepal PM Koirala that he was looking forward to visit Nepal and said that he would like to go to Janakpur and Lumbini, the birthplaces of Sita and Lord Buddha, respectively.

The Prime Minister also enquired about the status of bilateral projects he had announced during his Nepal trip.

The South Asian leaders congratulated India on its recent Mars orbiter mission and said they were looking forward to progress on SAARC satellite mission announced by Modi earlier.

After his nearly 30-minute-long meeting, Rajapaksa told, “The meeting was cordial and good. We talked about various issues.”

Bangladesh PM Hasina, who also met Modi for nearly 30 minutes, said that she would not allow the soil of her country to be used for any kind of extremism and hoped that India would also reciprocate on the matter.

It was her first meeting with Modi, as she could not attend his swearing-in ceremony in May this year.

She described the talks as “very good” and said she had discussed various bilateral issues of mutual concern with him.

On questions about extremism, Hasina said, “We are always against extremism. I have declared that I will not allow anybody to use our soil for any kind of extremism. We strongly fight the extremism and I hope that India will do the reciprocal.”

Hasina also raised the issues of Teesta River and Land Boundary Agreement, to which Modi indicated that the bill on land boundary issue was already before the select committee of the Parliament and the new MPs have been given a copy of the bill.

On Teesta, Modi told Hasina that he was committed to work on reaching a consensus on the matter.

To a question that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had requested for a meeting with Modi, Akbaruddin said, “All the leaders from South Asian countries, who had requested, were granted the meeting.”

Modi is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others, tomorrow.

Before his UN speech, PM met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed issues like imminent reforms in the UNSC and the need to involve countries contributing peace troops in the decision-making process of the multilateral institution.