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08 Dec 2023, 15:44 HRS IST
  • PTI
  • South Asia least economically integrated regions: Verma

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18:1 HRS IST

Kolkata, Dec 14 (PTI) Calling for improved connectivity in South Asia, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma today said the region is one of the least economically integrated in the world.

At the inaugural plenary of a seminar on Indo-Asia Connectivity for Shared Prosperity, he said unfortunately South Asia today is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world.

"Intra-regional trade as a percentage of total trade in the region has languished between four and five per cent compared to ASEAN where it stands at 25 per cent," he said.

During historical times, he said, this region was an integrated entity, bound by a rich tradition of dialogue, trade and cultural exchange.

Citing example of the famous Grand Trunk Road, stretching more than 1,500 miles from Kolkata to Kabul, he said if connectivity was a reality for this region in the past, we know it can be again in the future.

"What is required for it to take root once again is a common vision that takes into confidence the region's stakeholders," Verma said adding the Grand Trunk Road of the 21st century is as much about ideas and shared values as it is of a physical infrastructure.

"Whether it's in trade, energy, water, or people-to-people ties, connectivity is critical to South Asia's future development," Verma said.

He was all praise for India's engagement with its neighbouring countries, saying India's resolution of territorial disputes with Bangladesh and Burma stands as an example of its commitment to international norms and regional stability.

He, however, pointed out some cross-border threats like disease, human trafficking and drugs, that can often flow easily across states and countries, giving rise to multiple health and security challenges.

The envoy also praised the Indian government for Digital India program which he said is making important progress in expanding broadband access.

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