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Pakistan Observer

Published Date: Dec 12, 2012


Federal Minister for Defence Syed Naveed Qamar on Tuesday underlined the need to develop people-to-people contact among the countries of South Asian region and said that a process of learning will be made possible by increased contact.

“We need to look into the issue of deeper integration in the region whereby not just the merchandise but the people of Pakistan particularly the youth and communities could interact freely with each other. This is the way it used to be some three centuries back and it is time that we should learn from our histories where mutual respect and understanding allowed us to co-exist and prosper,” he said while speaking at a conference titled “Sustainable Development in South Asia: Shaping the Future”.

The conference was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institution here at a local hotel.

The minister said that today South Asia was the least connected region in the world and its connectivity indicators were even poorer than Sub-Saharan Africa.

“If we continue to be as distant as we are today, our children may never be able to interact, talk, meet and play with their children in the neighborhoods. Such a lost opportunity will be synonymous to a youth stolen in the name of history’s baggage,” he added.

He further said that Pakistan was revising its foreign policy in the face of newer emerging realities in the best interest of the people of Pakistan and for the development and prosperity in the region. He also said that a realistic review of Pakistan’s foreign policy focusing on “Looking towards Asia” as envisioned by late Benazir Bhutto was underway.

“We value our relationship with the powerful countries in Asia. Pakistan has played an active role in SAARC for formulation of the processes towards setting up food bank and supporting other regional forums including South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).” Naveed said the Pakistani government believed in taking people, media and civil society along and it had the dignity of taking civil society along as well on key issues of national and regional interests. “We have passed several laws on women protection and against discriminatory practices in collaboration and technical support from civil society and especially in close collaboration with SDPI,” he added.

Furthermore, he said that today under the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, the people of Pakistan were witnessing exemplary examples of freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary and sovereignty of the parliament. “Never before in Pakistan’s history has the media been so free. We also believe that without women participation, sustainable development cannot be ensured,” he added.

He expressed the hope that the conference would provide a chance to participants to see the research work done on various issues that had been posing problems for South Asian countries. Moreover, he minister said he himself had been associated with SDPI for many years as a member of its Board of Governors. “I admire SDPI as a prime think tank in the country that conducts policy dialogue and provides space to experts on South Asia to come up with their research on issues of regional concern,” he added. He said the theme of SDPI’s conference “Sustainable Development in South Asia: Shaping the Future” was very relevant to the post-global financial crisis discourse currently taking place in the region and all over the world.

“We have now understood that in order to grow together as a global community, developmental considerations need to go beyond mere concerns for economic growth. We need to think in terms of the very pillars of sustainable development which implies that we also regard social justice and respect our environment and natural resources,” he maintained.