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India to improve trade ties with SAARC nations: Pranab news
26 June 2007

Mumbai: India is taking steps to improve trade ties with member countries of the South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) and to facilitate easy movement of people within the grouping, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

The government, he said, is considering a move to reduce customs duty on goods imported from poor countries.

Speaking after inaugurating a regional passport office in Baharampur, in West Bengal, he said the passport office would cater to the needs of people of Nadia, Mushidabad and Birbhum districts.

This is the third passport office in West Bengal, the other two being in Siliguri and in Kolkata.

Meanwhile, the SAARC Regional Multi Modal Transport Study (SRMTS) has proposed that Nepal build four regional-level roads and two railway lines that would link other SAARC nations.

In a report prepared after a regional study on transit, the SRMTS also suggested Nepal improve the Tribhuvan International Airport, the only international airport in the country.
In accordance with a plan that was passed at the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2004, a task force was formed consisting of experts of all member countries with a view to upgrading transit and communication facilities in the region.

The report said that the road network could be instrumental for Nepal to have access to sea ports in member nations. It has identified a total of 18 road networks, including 14 which are in operation.

In Nepal''s case, the Kathmandu-Birgunj-Kolkata-Haldia road was proposed as the first road link. The proposed 1,323 km road can benefit Nepal in developing Birgunj in central Nepal as a dry port, the report said.

The second proposed road is the Kathmandu-Kankadbhitta-Fulbari- Mangola-Chatgaon link. The 1,394 km road will link Nepal with Bangladesh ports of Mangola and Chatgaon.

Another road proposed is the Kathmandu-Nepalgunj-New Delhi- Bagha border-Lahore-Karachi link. Kathmandu-Bhairahawa-Sunauli- Lucknow is the fourth road network proposed for Nepal .

The report further proposed a fast-track road on the Kathmandu- Birgunj route. Nepal has also been suggested to construct two railway lines linking India ''s Kolkata and Haldia and Bangladesh''s Chatgaon.

The first railway line would link Nepal from Birgunj to Bangladesh''s Chatgaon via India ''s Raxaul and Katihar. The second railway track will pass through Birgunj-Raxaul and reach Kolkata''s Haldia sea port.

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India to improve trade ties with SAARC nations: Pranab