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PM talks ‘strong SAARC’ with neighbours

Taking forward his ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today discussed matters of regional and bilateral cooperation with top leaders of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The three neighbouring leaders also promised their full support to Modi’s suggestion to the UN to celebrate International Yoga Day once a year, which he made during his 35-minute speech at the UN General Assembly.

Modi also reiterated his commitment to make SAARC a strong regional block.

Before his UN speech, Modi met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed issues like imminent reforms in the UNSC and the need to involve countries contributing peace troops in the decision-making process of the multilateral institution.

Modi made a strong pitch before Ban for the UNSC reforms before its 70th anniversary next year, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters while briefing about the Prime Minister’s meetings today.

During bilateral meetings, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala congratulated Modi on his first UN speech and promised full support for his initiative of having an International Yoga Day.

Within hours of it being mooted, Rajapaksa gave his support in writing to the initiative which would need to be ratified by the UN General Assembly by September 2015 for coming into effect.

The three leaders also said that they were looking forward to Modi’s visit to their respective countries, including for the SAARC summit in Nepal later this year.

Modi told Koirala that he was looking forward to visit Nepal and said he would like to go to Janakpur and Lumbini, the birthplaces of Sita and Lord Buddha, respectively.

The Prime Minister also enquired about the status of bilateral projects he had announced during his Nepal trip.

Akbaruddin said that Modi in his meetings with the three neighbouring leaders discussed various other issues of common concerns for SAARC block and reiterated his commitment to ‘neighbours first’ policy.


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