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Business Recorder

Published Date: Sep 14, 2012

HINA FOR ACHIEVING GREATER REGIONAL COOPERATION

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Thursday urged South Asian countries to move forward for achieving greater regional co-operation and deeper integration. “We need to look into future, as we have moved ahead on the path of confidence and trust building leading towards deeper regional integration, Pakistan is proud to walk-the-talk with its immediate neighbours with a more optimist, open and positive mindset coupled with a strong political will and political consensus”, Khar said, while speaking at the concluding ceremony of 5th South Asia Economic Summit’.

The summit was organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and its track-II partners across South Asia, under the title “Making Growth Inclusive and Sustainable in South Asia. “It is, in fact, economic diplomacy, which is creating space for political diplomacy despite challenges such as food security, climate challenge, water, energy and many others”, she said, adding that the region has a huge potential, which can be positively utilised to deal with ever multiplying challenges that the region simultaneously faces.

She said that there was an absolute political consensus among all political forces in the country that we should have peace, normalisation and trust with our neighbours. “We are moving ahead on regional trade, regional connectivity, deeper integration and infrastructure development including energy”, she added.

Khar also highlighted positive policies of the government for boosting inter-regional trade like Afghanistan -Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and efforts for normalisation of trade with India. She said that the green signal given by Pakistan to normalise trade with India is aimed at promoting regional trade, but, she added that it should not be deemed as Pakistan’s weakness.

She said Saarc countries have now realised that development of a country depends upon on connectivity and deeper connection with one another. She also termed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and import of electricity from central Asian countries as necessary for the prosperity of the region, adding that Afghanistan will prove future gateway of trade for the central Asian countries.

Khar said Pakistan has been able to move forward in changing the mindset and policy about various issues. She further said that Pakistan’s core interest is to promote peace and security for common citizens of Pakistan. She also appreciated the track-II diplomacy for the normalisation of relations with the neighbours and boosting regional co-operation, saying that it seems that for a different and changed South Asia in future, the track-II diplomacy might be going ahead of the track-I.

“With the normalisation efforts, we are buying the ownership of our collective future which is extremely vital for the people of this region”, she added. Khar also lauded the SDPI’s role in undertaking tremendous policy research, contributions for regional integration and sustainable development. Dr Abid Q Suleri, SDPI Executive Director appreciated the recent positive developments between India and Pakistan, saying that it was a matter of great pleasure that the South Asian states are realising the logic of co-operation and regional integration.

He also shared the summit recommendations, while particularly underlined the need for setting up South Asian Commission on environment, a social accountability framework for Saarc, as a regional organisation and agreements under Saarc Summits, convergence of regional trade agreements towards norms agreed in Safta, increasing the capacity of institutions that can operationalise Safta, conventions on migration to protect the rights of migrants across the region, setting up of national commissions to expediently address in-country constraints to connectivity, which includes infrastructure, management and supervision to moving towards inclusive and sustainable in South Asia.

Earlier, chairing a session on costs of economic non-co-operation to consumers in South Asia, Senator Haji Adeel of ANP stressed the need for establishing a common parliament and a common currency for South Asia region. He said that Saarc members could save resources by importing from within the region and direct these savings on better services in health and education.

Eng Khurram Dastgir of PML-N and also chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, while chairing a session on trade normalisation between India and Pakistan, noted that the trade can play very vital role for confidence building with the neighbour countries.

Speakers of a plenary on Development Agenda observed that achieving high growth rates was not sufficient for development needs of the region. Rehman Sobhan from Bangladesh said that it was important to connect growth process with sustainability and make it equitably inclusive for all citizens. He said that benefits of growth should be shared with marginalized segments of the society and they should not just be confined to availability of micro-credit.

He said that South Asia needs to focus on inclusive growth and sustainability, linked with wider co-operation in the region. He further said that domestic political advantages should not be sought at the cost of regional co-operation. Nuzhat Jabeen from Affiliated Network for Social Accountability observed that good governance cannot be achieved unless masses become aware of their constitutional rights and proactively start demanding for their right of quality public service delivery. Khadija Haq, while speaking observed that it was necessary to invest in sectors that generate livelihoods for most of the population, notably agriculture, which is now being ignored owing to the focus on services sector.