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12 (4)-684-CROP

Prime Minister Sushil Koiralaji, my colleagues from South Asia

I am delighted to return to Kathmandu.

Koiralaji, congratulations on organising an excellent Summit

Thank you, Nepal, for your warm hospitality once again.

Greetings to the Observer countries present here.

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This is my first SAARC.  But, this is the second time I am meeting most of you together.  I stepped into the office with the greetings of the entire world.

But, what moved me, dear colleagues, was your personal presence, with the good wishes of one-fourth of humanity.

Because the future I dream for India is the future I wish for our entire region.

The last Summit was three years ago.  Only two of us here were present in Addu.  Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has come here after her re-election.  President Rajapaksa will soon go into one and I wish him good luck.  I especially welcome our newest colleague, President Ghani.

Ours is a region of thriving democracy; of rich inheritance; the unmatched strength of youth; and, a strong thirst for change and progress.

In the last few months, I have travelled around the world.

From the middle of the Pacific, to the southern coast of Atlantic Ocean, I see a rising tide of integration.

And, negotiations on major trade agreements such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

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Because the barriers of boundaries inhibit progress; international partnerships add speed to it.

Because, in the life of an individual or a nation, a good neighbourhood is a universal aspiration.

Where does South Asia wish to stand in this world?

Nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than in South Asia; and, nowhere else is it so modest.

Big and small, we face the same challenges - a long climb to the summit of development.

But, I have great belief in our boundless potential.

And, confidence  - that comes from the many inspiring stories of innovation and initiative in each of our countries.

There is much to learn from each other; even more - to do together.

That was the vision and aspiration that brought us together as SAARC 30 years ago.  We have travelled a long distance together since then.

We have an agreement, an institution or a framework of cooperation in every field.  We also have many successes.

Yet, when we speak of SAARC, we usually hear two reactions – cynicism and scepticism.  This, sadly, is in a region throbbing with the optimism of our youth.

Today, less than 5% of the region's global trade takes place between us.  Even at this modest level, less than 10% of the region's internal trade takes place under SAARC Free Trade Area.

Indian companies are investing billions abroad, but less than 1% flow into our region.

It is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore; and, more expensive to speak to each other.

How much have we done in SAARC to turn our natural wealth into shared prosperity; or, our borders into bridgeheads to a shared future?

Yet, South Asia is slowly coming together.

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India and Bangladesh have deepened their links through rail, road, power and transit.

India and Nepal have started a new era of cooperation in energy; and, India and Bhutan are making those ties stronger by the day.

With Sri Lanka, we have transformed trade through a Free Trade Agreement.

We will soon launch a new arrangement to meet Maldives' need for oil.

Distance and difficulties have not held back India and Afghanistan.

And, bus and train sustain contacts between people in India and Pakistan

We have given five South Asian partners duty free access to 99.7% of their goods and are prepared to do more with others.

For India, it has been a privilege to provide assistance of nearly 8 billion U.S. dollars in South Asia over a decade.

It may not seem a great amount in these times, but we are grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference to the lives of a few brothers and sisters in our region.

Each of us has taken our initiatives.

However, as SAARC we have failed to move with the speed that our people expect and want.

Some argue that it is because of the region's development gap. But, that should actually spur us to do more.

Or, is it because we are stuck behind the walls of our differences and hesitant to move out of the shadows of the past?

This won't resolve our differences, but will certainly deprive us of opportunities.

Today, goods travel from one Punjab to the other Punjab through Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Karachi – making the journey eleven times longer and the cost four times more.

India, too,  has its share of responsibility –because of our size and location. I know that many of your goods, too, have to do a Parikrama of India to reach their destinations.

Just think of what we are doing to our consumers - and to our environment!

We must shrink the distance between our producers and consumers and use the most direct routes of trade.  I know India has to lead, and we will do our part  hope, each of you will, too.

Infrastructure is our region's greatest weakness and it's most pressing need.

When I thought of coming to Kathmandu by road, it made many officials in India nervous.

Because of the condition of roads at the border!

Infrastructure is my greatest priority in India.  And, I also want to set up a Special Purpose Facility in India to finance infrastructure projects in our region that enhances our connectivity and trade.

We speak of ease of doing business in India.  Let's extend this to our region.  I promise to ensure that our facilities at the border will speed up, not slow down, trade.

Let's all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paper work less burdensome.

India will now give business visa for 3-5 years for SAARC.  Let's make it even easier for our businesses through a SAARC Business Traveller Card.

Excellencies, India has a huge trade surplus with SAARC countries.  I believe that this neither right nor sustainable.

We will address your concerns and give you a level playing field in India.  But, I encourage you to attract Indian investments to produce for the Indian market and create jobs for your youth.

I also look to a future when your companies can easily raise funds in India for investments at home;

and, when we have cross-border industrial corridors, so that we can take advantage of the natural synergies and connected lives in our Border States.

I also believe that if we can light up each other's towns and villages, we can build a brighter tomorrow for our region.

Or, face a future when someone looks down at us from Space, and says that this is world's darkest corner.

Let us treat electricity as a commodity like any other that we invest and trade in.  India will fully support these initiatives in the region.

We should also think with ambition to use solar energy and micro grids to quickly provide clean power to villages across the region.

Our relations become stronger when we connect the lives of the ordinary citizens of our countries.  That is why connectivity and services by rail and road are so important.  We should also connect ourselves more by air.

We will not only make a difference to the lives of our people but also promote tourism in the region

We should use the strength of shared heritage and our diversity -  to encourage tourism within our region, and present South Asia to the world.   We could begin with the Buddhist circuit, but we don't have to stop there.

As we seek to build bridges to prosperity, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to the millions living without hope.

We must work with our compassion of our hearts, but also with the power of science.

In the area of health, India will meet the shortfall in funds to establish the SAARC Regional Supra Reference Laboratory for TB and HIV.

We offer the five-in-one vaccine for the children of South Asia.

We will support monitoring and surveillance of polio-free countries, and provide vaccines where it might reappear.

And, for those coming to India for medical treatment, India will provide immediate medical visa for the patient and one attendant.

Information technology has removed all barriers to quality education.  India is prepared to connect our South Asian students through online course and E-libraries.  When we set up India's National Knowledge Network, we will be happy to extend it to the SAARC region.

The dream of a South Asian University has become a reality in New Delhi.  But, to be truly South Asian, it must also have partnerships with at least one university in each SAARC country.

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Excellencies,

India's gift of a satellite for the SAARC region will benefit us all in areas like education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication.

We will also host a conference in India for all South Asian partners next year, to strengthen our collective ability to apply space technology in economic development and governance.

And, we plan to launch our satellite by the SAARC Day in 2016.

As neighbours, we should also be together in good and bad times.

India's capability and expertise in disaster management will always be available to South Asia.

Equally, as we reach out to our Indians caught in conflicts and disasters around the world, we will also be there for all our South Asian citizens.

Excellencies, a prosperous SAARC needs the strong foundation of a secure South Asia.

If we are sensitive to each other's security, and the lives of our people, we will deepen friendships, spur cooperation and advance stability in our region.

Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives.

Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes.

For India, our vision for the region rests on five pillars – trade, investment, assistance, cooperation in every area, contacts between our people – and, all through seamless connectivity.

This is the call of our times.  This is the age of social media, where boundaries matter little.

There is a new awakening in South Asia; a new recognition of inter-linked destinies; and, a new belief in shared opportunities.

The bonds will flow.

Through SAARC or outside it.

Among us all or some of us.

We can all choose our paths to our destinations.  But, when we join our hands and walk in step, the path becomes easier, the journey quicker and the destination closer.

I say this as much to my government and people, as I say to you.

We are meeting in the lap of Himalaya, which has nurtured us through the ages.  Today, it is calling us to act.

Let us work to change cynicism into optimism.

Let us turn South Asia of flowering hope into a rich field of peace and prosperity.

'মন কী বাত'কীদমক্তা হৌজিক অদোমগী ৱাখল্লোন অমদি তান-ৱাশিং শেয়র তৌবীয়ু!
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With 2.5 crore jabs on PM’s birthday, India sets new record for Covid-19 vaccines
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Lauds Goa on the completion of 100% first dose coverage for the adult population
Remembers services of Shri Manohar Parikkar on the occasion
Goa has shown the great results of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas: PM
I have seen many birthdays and have always been indifferent to that but, in all my years, yesterday was a day that made me deeply emotional as 2.5 crore people got vaccinated: PM
Yesterday witnessed more than 15 lakh doses administered every hour, more than 26 thousand doses every minute and more than 425 doses every second: PM
Every achievement of Goa that epitomises the concept of Ek Bharat -Shreshth Bharat fills me with great joy: PM
Goa is not just a state of the country but also a strong marker of Brand India: PM

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi interacted with healthcare workers and beneficiaries of the COVID vaccination programme in Goa through a video conference on the completion of 100% first dose coverage for the adult population in Goa.

Interaction with healthcare workers and beneficiaries

During the interaction, the Prime Minister enquired from Dr Nitin Dhupdale, Lecturer in Goa Medical College, how he convinced people to take COVID vaccines. He also discussed the difference between the COVID vaccination campaign and the earlier campaign. Dr Dhupdale praised the mission campaign mode of this particular campaign. Criticizing the opposition party, PM wondered how after vaccinating 2.5 crore people there were reactions from the opposition party instead of the vaccinated people. The Prime Minister lauded doctors and other Corona warriors for the completion of 100% first dose coverage for the adult population in Goa. He said that this is an inspiration for the entire world.

Prime Minister while interacting with the COVID beneficiary and activist Shri Nazir Shaikh enquired how he decided to convince others to take the vaccines. He asked Shri Nazir about the difficulties faced by him in taking people to the vaccination centres. He also asked Shri Nazir about his experience in the vaccination drive. The Prime Minister said that the inclusion of ‘Sabka Prayas’ like Shri Nazir Shaikh’s effort is a big factor in achieving results in this very important campaign. The Prime Minister praised the socially conscious activists all over the country.

While interacting with Ms Sweema Fernandes, the Prime Minister asked what all enquiries she made while people came to her for vaccination. She explained the stages of maintaining the cold chain. He also enquired how they maintained the cold chain for the vaccines. He inquired about the steps taken by them to achieve zero wastage of vaccines. The Prime Minister praised her for doing her duties despite her family commitments and thanked all the families of the corona warriors for their efforts.

While interacting with Shri Shashikant Bhagat, the Prime Minister recalled how he interacted with his old acquaintance on his birthday yesterday. He narrated that when asked about his age, the Prime Minister said ‘Abhi 30 baaki hain’ (30 more to go). Shri Modi advised 75-year-old Shri Bhagat not to dwell on 75 years but should focus on 25 years to come. He enquired about any difficulties faced by him during vaccination. Shri Bhagat expressed his satisfaction with the preference given to the senior citizens. He also dispelled the fears of the side effects of vaccines, as he is a diabetic and did not face any side effects. The Prime Minister praised Shri Bhagat, a retired sales tax officer for his social service and said that the government is committed to enhancing the ease of living including in the sphere of taxation.

The Prime Minister enquired Ms Sweety SM Vengurlekar how she organized Tikka Utsav in remote areas. He asked about the planning that went into organizing the Utsav. The Prime Minister emphasized that the focus was on making it easy for the citizens during the pandemic as far as possible. He asked for proper documentation and dissemination of the logistics involved in such a massive exercise.

The Prime Minister enquired visually challenged beneficiary Ms Sumera Khan about her experience of vaccination. The Prime Minister praised Ms Khan for her achievements in academics and wished her well for her aspirations of becoming an IAS officer. Shri Modi lauded the Divyang citizens of the country for inspiring the lives that they are leading.

Speech of the Prime Minister

Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister lauded the people of Goa for achieving Anant Sutr’ (Protection) during the auspicious Ganesh Utsav season. He expressed happiness for every eligible person in Goa getting at least one dose of the vaccine. “This is a major milestone in the fight against Corona. Every achievement of Goa that epitomises the concept of El Bharat -Shreshth Bharat fills me with great joy”, he said.

The Prime Minister remembered the services of Shri Manohar Parikkar on this day of major achievements.

The Prime Minister remarked that in the last few months, Goa has fought bravely with natural calamities like heavy rains, cyclones, floods. He praised all the corona warriors, health workers and Team Goa for maintaining the pace of corona vaccination amidst these natural calamities.

The Prime Minister commended the kind of coordination that Goa has shown in dealing with social and geographical challenges. The pace of vaccination in Canacona sub-division, which is located in the remotest parts of the state, sets an example for the rest of the state. “Goa has shown the great results of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka, Vishwas and Sabka Prayas.” he said.

The Prime Minister struck an emotional chord and said that I have seen many birthdays and have always been indifferent to that but, in all my years, yesterday was a day that made me deeply emotional.” Yesterday’s occasion was made extra special by the efforts of the country and corona warriors. He praised the compassion, service and sense of duty of the team and people for vaccinating 2.5 crore people. “Everyone cooperated fully, people connected this with service. It was their compassion and duty that made this feat of 2.5 crore vaccination in a day possible,” said a visibly moved Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister praised the contribution of the people of the medical field, those who are engaged for the last two years, without caring for their lives, are helping the countrymen in fighting Corona, for the record vaccination yesterday. People associate it with service. It is his compassion and duty that has been able to administer 2.5 crore vaccine doses. The Prime Minister informed that Himachal, Goa, Chandigarh and Lakshadweep have completed the first dose for the eligible population. Sikkim, Andaman Nicobar, Kerala, Laddakh, Uttrakhand and Dadra Nagar haveli are not far behind.

The Prime Minister said that India prioritized tourist destinations in its vaccination efforts though this was not talked about earlier. It was important for our tourism destinations to open. The Central government has also recently taken several steps to encourage foreign tourists. It has been decided to give free visas to 5 lakh tourists visiting India, loan up to 10 lakh with a government guarantee to the stakeholders in the tourism sector and loan up to 1 lakh for registered tourist guides have been instituted, the Prime Minister informed.

The Prime Minister said that the ‘double engine government’ is powering the efforts of making the Goan tourism sector more attractive and giving more facilities to farmers and fishermen of the state. Mopa greenfield airport and 6 lane highway with the allocation of 12 thousand crore, Zuari bridge connecting North and South Goa to be inaugurated in few months are enhancing connectivity in the state.

Shri Modi noted that Goa has taken a pledge of Swayam Poorna Goa to attain AatmNirbharta in Amrit Kaal and has started manufacturing more than 50 components. He underlined Goa’s achievements in toilet coverage, cent per cent electrification, and the great effort for ‘Har Ghar Jal’ campaign. The country has connected 5 crore households with piped water in 2 years and Goa’s efforts in this direction show the state’s clear priority for good governance and ease of living. The Prime Minister also listed Goa’s efforts in providing ration to poor families, free gas cylinder, distribution of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, expansion of Kisan Credit Cards in mission mode during pandemic and Svanidhi scheme benefits to street vendors. Calling Goa a state of boundless possibilities, the Prime Minister said “Goa is not just a state of the country but also is a strong marker of Brand India”.