"We can change our friends but not our neighbours. It is for us to decide if we want to live in a state of perpetual tension or develop together in an atmosphere of peace and harmony," Mukherjee said at the 'Cavalry Memorial Lecture' here.
He said despite the fact that South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in 1985, the full potential of the association was yet to be realised. Citing the example of the european union that had created common market as well as common currency, the president advised the SAARC nations to "look at a shared future leaving behind the divisions of the past".
Mukherjee said India-Bangladesh relations was a good example of progress in looking at a shared future. "India-Bangladesh relations today are the best ever since 1974. They are based on mutual benefit, equality and respect for sovereignty." Noting that connectivity was the catalyst for deeper engagement, Mukherjee urged to increase regional connectivity and cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
He informed that mutually beneficial arrangements allowing movement of goods from Bangladesh through India to Nepal and Bhutan and from mainland India through Bangladesh to India's northeast region have been worked out.
"These are significant steps forward which have been enabled by the close cooperation and frequent interaction of senior leaders of the two countries." The president also pitched for moving towards greater economic integration. (IANS)