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India, Pakistan should find a way of working closely: Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan minister said that the Saarc accounts for just 5 per cent of the total trade of the member countries

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Confidence building steps the way forward in Indo-Pak talks

Amid simmering tension between and Pakistan, Sri Lankan Minister Malik Samarawickrama on Thursday advocated the need for the two to find a way of working together if the (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is keen to create regional economic population.

Stating that the accounts for just 5 per cent of the total of the member countries, the minister said barriers like high cost of trading in the region and absence of regional value chain have hindered growth of economic co-operation.

"The fact is it is natural for neighbouring countries to more with each other, but the South inter-regional trade is just 5 per cent of the total trade. It shows we are nowhere near where we want to be," Samarawickrama said at the Economic Summit in New Delhi, jointly organised by the and

"Of course, there are many obstacles like high cost trading within the region, absence of regional value chain. First of all, it is extremely important to have and Pakistan, the two largest economies in the region, to find a way of working together," he added.

Asked if it was essential for India and trade to pick up for rest of the countries to work with each other, he said: "I am not saying that, individually we have all the countries... Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, having reasonable growth. If we are looking at regional economic population, India and will have to find a way of working together."

On trade with India, the minister said both countries are looking at deepening their ties further.

"From Sri Lanka's point of view, we have a free trade agreement with India and now, we are in the process of deepening that agreement. We are looking at a more comprehensive economic and technological cooperation that we hope is in place by the first quarter of the next year," Samarawickrama said.

"At the same time, we are invigorating the (free-trade agreement) we have with Pakistan. So, from our point of view, we are looking at a market of 1.5 billion people," he added.

The country is also working closely with to bolster its He clarified that it is not at the expense of any other country.

"We are discussing with We hope to do it by March next year," Samarawickrama added.

First Published: Thu, October 06 2016. 16:05 IST