Mubarak Zeb Khan
Published Date: Dec 9, 2015
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India can bring peace and prosperity in the region by cooperating with each other in trade and other fields, said Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday.
His remarks came at the 18th Sustainable Development Conference organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) under the theme ‘Securing Peace and Prosperity’.
A collective vision of South Asia should be promoted to fight poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and terrorism, the minister said.
He touched upon his Vision-2025 for Pakistan and said that the milestones set in the policy could only be achieved through regional cooperation and integration.
“Our government is working in close collaboration with provincial governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
About regional cooperation, he said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would bear fruits for all neighbouring countries.
On the occasion, many speakers said that CPEC needs to be transformed into economic opportunities and pointed out the barriers to regional and transit trade in the region.
Executive Director of Bangladesh’s Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dr Mustafizur Rahman pointed out the failure of translating transport corridors into development corridors.
“Transport cost for trade between South Asian and European countries is higher than the transport costs for trade within South Asian states,” he said.
MNA Naveed Qamar of Pakistan People’s Party highlighted the lack of push factor in business communities and civil society in South Asian countries to urge their respective governments for eradicating logistic barriers to cross-border trade.
Ajith Wattuhewa, President Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sri Lanka, said that there was a need to improve the flow of Cross Border Freight (CBF) for a sustainable transportation system. He emphasised the need to initiate political dialogues to solve the issues.
Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said that South Asia needs to build a trust fund to cope with trade, investment and human vulnerabilities. He also proposed to devise regional monitoring mechanisms to give necessary technical advice to the region.
He said both the soft and hard options should also be considered by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
On sustainable development agenda, former finance minister Dr Hafeez Pasha said Pakistan performed worst and was ranked sixth in South Asia on Millennium Development Goals while Nepal and Bhutan performed exceptionally well in this regard.
Head of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, India Dr Nagesh Kumar said that SDGs might be the last chance for South Asia to tackle hunger and poverty Director-General of India’s Research and Information System, Dr Sachin Chaturvedi said as Asia moves towards SDGs, the sharing of technology is extremely important for better data monitoring and accountability.
He stressed the need for research institutes and the community to motivate their local powers to move towards technology reform — before the 2016 Saarc conference.
Executive Director SDPI, Dr Abid Suleri expressed concern that SDGs, like the earlier MDGs, ignored intra and interstate differences. “We must not block our visions and dreams under income levels and we must own up to Vision 2025 and SDGs,” he said.