New Delhi, Nov 21: In order to have better transport infrastructure and linkages among the SAARC countries, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday approved signing and ratifying the SAARC Regional Railways Agreement by India, as a member State of SAARC.
The SAARC region is one of the least networked regions in terms of physical and soft connectivity leading to high costs and low volumes of trade, therefore, the leaders of the SAARC countries agreed that better transport infrastructure and linkages was necessary.
It may be noted that a study in 2005 undertaken by SAARC Secretariat had recommended multilateral agreements permitting free movement of people, goods and services within SAARC region in the Road and Rail sector.
The recommendation was also endorsed by the SAARC countries in the Summit level and Transport Ministers meetings, and the Regional Rail Agreement (RRA) was drafted by India for SAARC countries in 2008.
Since then, the draft Agreement has been discussed in the three meetings of the Expert Group on Regional Rail Agreement and in the meetings of Inter-Governmental Group on Transport (IGGT) and the text of the proposed Agreement was finalized in the 5th IGGT held in New Delhi on September 30, 2014.
The accord will strengthen transport connectivity in the SAARC Region. The rail and transport connectivity will not only provide stimulus to economic development in the region as a whole but also promote social and cultural contact and encourage tourism in the region.
The agreement will also enable low cost, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable transportation in the SAARC region and provide trade and economic links for the land locked countries and semi-isolated regions.
SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement
The Cabinet meet also approved the signing and ratifying the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement at the SAARC summit on November 26-27, 2014 in Kathmandu. The Cabinet approved the signing of a Bilateral Agreement for the regulation of passenger traffic between Government of India and Republic of Nepal on the sidelines of the forthcoming SAARC Summit in Kathmandu.
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has also been authorized to sign similar Bilateral Agreements and Protocols with other SAARC member States.
SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation
The Cabinet also gave its approval for signing of “SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)” among the SAARC mMember states during the forthcoming 18th SAARC Summit scheduled to be held at Kathmandu on November 26-27.
The agreement will enable greater cooperation in the power sector among SAARC countries, and it is expected to improve the power availability in the entire SAARC region.
Besides, the agreement would facilitate integrated operation of the regional power grid.