Published Date: Sep 14, 2012
TIME TO MOVE FORWARD FOR SOUTH ASIA REGIONAL COOPERATION: KHAR
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Thursday said that it was time to move forward to achieve greater regional cooperation within South Asia and that Pakistan was ready to cooperate with its immediate neighbours with a more optimistic, open and positive mindset coupled with a strong political will and consensus.
“We need to look into future as we have moved ahead on the path of confidence and trust-building, leading towards deeper regional integration,” Khar said while speaking at the concluding ceremony of “5th South Asia Economic Summit” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and its track-II partners across South Asia.
She said, “We are moving ahead on regional trade, regional connectivity, deeper integration and infrastructure development, including that in the energy sector.”
“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 added.
The foreign minister said that the region had a huge potential which could be positively utilised to deal with ever multiplying challenges that the region faced. There was an absolute political consensus among all the political forces in the country that we should have peace, normalisation and trust with our neighbours, she further said.
The foreign minister lauded the role the SDPI had been playing over the last two decades in undertaking tremendous policy research and by contributing to regional integration and sustainable development. “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.
On this occasion, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Haji Adeel said, “I wish a common parliament and a common currency for the South Asia region.” Citing a study by CUTS India, he said, “SAARC members could save resources by importing from within region and spend these savings on better services in health and education.”
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri appreciated the recent positive developments between India and Pakistan, saying it was a matter of great pleasure that the South Asian states were realising the logic of cooperation and regional integration. He said much distance still needed to be covered but the direction was right, as was the intent. He presented recommendations for setting up of a ‘South Asia Commission on Environment’, a social accountability framework for SAARC as a regional organisation, and convergence of regional trade agreements towards norms agreed in SAFTA.
Muchkund Dubey, the former foreign secretary of India, said, “SAFTA needs new life by removing flaws, including a huge negative trade list.” It was also highlighted that despite tremendous natural and human resources, South Asia lagged behind in development, primarily because the regional governments had not allowed the private sector to do business in and across the countries. Ahmed Naseer from Maldives said labour mobility from South Asia and tourist movement across the region needed serious political thinking. Rehman Subhan from Bangladesh said South Asia needed to focus on inclusive growth and sustainability, linked with wider cooperation in the region. He further said that domestic political advantages should not be sought at the cost of regional cooperation.