Indian media: Modi's Saarc agenda

Mr Modi urged Saarc leaders to unite for the region's development Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Modi urged Saarc leaders to unite for the region's development

Media in India praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi for urging South Asian countries to boost regional development.

Mr Modi on Wednesday stressed on the "urgent" need to overcome challenges that are holding the region back during the 18th Saarc (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

Saarc was founded in 1985 by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and it admitted Afghanistan in 2005.

"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," The Times on India quotes Mr Modi as saying.

Papers welcome the fact that Mr Modi acknowledged regional problems and urged leaders present at the summit to improve cooperation between the member countries.

"Mr Modi deserves full credit for giving a 'South Asian' speech and trying to acknowledge the problems besetting the region," the First Post website says.

The Times of India praises the prime minister for emphasising on the significance of making regional trade easier through better infrastructure.

"At a time when trade blocs and free trade areas are being negotiated across the globe, Mr Modi rightly pointed out that less than 5% of the region's global trade took place between Saarc member nations," the paper says.

Regional cooperation aside, papers feel the summit also highlighted the strained ties between India and Pakistan.

Mr Modi met all leaders present at the summit apart from his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

"A thaw in the Indo-Pak ties remained a distant dream as Mr Modi and Mr Sharif cold-shouldered each other though they shared the dais," the Deccan Herald says.

Mr Sharif's presence at Mr Modi's oath-taking ceremony in May had revived hopes of the resumption of peace talks between the neighbours.

However, the ties suffered a setback in August when Delhi cancelled scheduled foreign secretary-level talks after Pakistan's envoy to India, Abdul Basit, met a Kashmiri separatist leader.

'China's shadow'

Papers also note that China's "shadow" loomed over the summit amid India's attempts to lead the regional bloc.

"With a promised investment of $30bn (£19bn) in the South Asian region over the next five years, China's shadow loomed large over the Saarc summit," The Times of India says.

China, which currently enjoys an observer's position, has been pushing for a permanent membership.

In some domestic news, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the government would "pro-actively chase" those who illegally hide untaxed money abroad, reports say.

Mr Jaitley on Wednesday told the parliament that the identities of 427 people who have bank accounts abroad have been confirmed, The Times of India reports.

Congress and other regional parties, however, said that the government has failed to bring back the "black money" in "100 days" as promised during Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s poll campaigns earlier this year.

And finally, the Indian government is planning measures to prevent tourists from getting harassed, The Times of India reports.

"Union minister of state for tourism and culture Mahesh Sharma said his ministry was in talks with the home ministry to deal with touts who harass tourists and touching tourists could be made a criminal offence," the paper reports.

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