Declaring the process of South Asian economic re-integration had begun, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday urged the regional governments to prepare a roadmap for establishing a South Asian Development Bank.
"Today, the process of South Asian economic re-integration has begun, albeit slowly, with gradual phasing out of tariffs," Sitharaman said in her address at the South Asia Economic Conclave here organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) along with the union commerce ministry and the World Bank.
In this context, she urged the regional governments work towards establishing a South Asian Development Bank.
She said that after India extended the Duty Free Quote Free (DFQF) facility to the least developed countries in the South Asia region, exports from these countries to India had increased.
To accelerate intra-regional trade and regional economic integration, there is need for the region to establish free trade areas, Sitharaman added.
Speaking earlier, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said that countries of the region should take active measures to bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers that limit the expansion of regional trade.
Nepal's Commerce and Supplies Minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa said in his address that if the European Union could achieve deep economic integration, so can the South Asian economies.
The Indian finance ministry's chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian said that in certain sectors, including power, infrastructure and services, India stands to benefit from regional cooperation.
"Although economic cooperation with South Asia is an important objective, it is not an overwhelming economic objective for India currently," he said.