Himalayan News Service

Hyderabad, March 26:

India yesterday called for greater cooperation among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in agriculture to overcome the disadvantages created by globalisation for developing countries vis-à-vis developed nations. Sharad Pawar, Indian agriculture minister told a meeting in Hyderabad of agriculture ministers and key policy makers of SAARC countries on ‘Prospects for South Asian Free Trade and Cooperation in Agriculture’ that India was ready to work together with its neighbours in the field of agricultural research.

He called for higher trade integration in the SAARC region through the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). Pointing out that SAFTA, which is to take effect next year, does not provide a very high level of integration especially in the agriculture commodities, Pawar urged for more efforts to integrate this sector in a meaningful manner so that the benefits can be shared by all. He suggested that a forum under the ambit of SAARC should be established for exchange of information relating to agricultural issues.

“Policy makers of the member countries can meet more frequently to achieve the target.” Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, the Bhutanese agriculture minister, and Tissa Warnasuriya, Sri Lanka’s secretary (agriculture), were among those who attended the meeting. Bangladesh agriculture minister MK Anwar and Pakistan’s agriculture secretary Mohammed Ismail Qureishi could not attend due to last minute problems. Officials of their agriculture ministries represented them. Pawar said the South Asian countries can face this challenge only through greater cooperation among themselves.