SAFMA seminar: ‘Pakistan, India should develop common interests’

Published: August 14, 2011

People stand while the national anthem is played at a Safma seminar. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE: 

Pakistan and India need to resolve bilateral issues and increase trade for the betterment of the people of the two countries, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif has said.

Addressing a seminar titled ‘Building Bridges Together’ arranged by the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) in connection with Independence Day here on Saturday, Sharif said India and Pakistan had a common heritage and culture and he supported talks between the two countries to solve all problems.

Sharif, who was chief guest on the occasion, said the disputes between India and Pakistan had hurt both countries. “How terrific would it be if India built a motorway from the Wagha border crossing to Calcutta and the two countries do trade? When we constructed the motorway it was our plan to take it to Kabul via Peshawar as well as to Gwadar and Tashkent.”

He said that his government had been in talks with the Afghan president over a proposal to share costs for the roads, while he was also in discussions with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee “to resolve all problems including the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. Vajpayee even suggested announcing 1999 as the year for resolving the Kashmir dispute, but our government was toppled,” he said.

The former prime minister said that Pakistan and India should compete in economic reforms rather than weapons. “If India buys a tank Pakistan does the same. This has damaged our social sector and infrastructure,” he said.

Professor Sucha Singh Gill, director general of India’s Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, cited a recent report by the World Bank showing that the annual growth rate of countries which suffer from internal conflicts or have bad relations with their neighbours goes down by two percent.

Gill said that the two countries needed to work together to face future challenges. “We have many common problems. One of them is climate change. When rivers go dry the irrigation systems of both our countries suffer. The energy crisis is a severe problem that we have in South Asia and for which we need to approach Central or West Asia. We need to develop common interests,” he said.

Social scientist Dr Muhammad Waseem said Pakistan should stop supporting anti-India militants. “These organisations are not an asset for us and we need to understand this,” he said.

He emphasised the need for people-to-people contact between the two countries. “We should understand the cost of failure. If India and Pakistan don’t have good relations, poverty will remain the fate of the people in both these countries,” he added.

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said that the dialogue process between the two countries should be uninterrupted and uninterruptible. “We have to decide whether we want the Pakistan of Jinnah or the Pakistan of Al Qaeda,” he said.

He said that a ‘peace park’ should be constructed at the Wagha border crossing in memory of those who had died during Partition. He also demanded that visa restrictions between the two countries be eliminated.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • TANOLI.
    Aug 14, 2011 - 10:32PM

    its true what mr sherif said but who is behind this for our great army and who else/??????

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  • My Name is Khan
    Aug 15, 2011 - 10:02PM

    It’s hard for us to trust Sharif but what he’s saying is true. We need to stop fighting and focus on being growing economies. That is GOOD competition. I can’t wait for the day that what we argue about with our Indian friends is “Well Pakistani company X built a better operating system than Indian company Y – just see, all the new mobile devices will be running it in the next 3 years!”

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  • Sanjoy Das
    Aug 16, 2011 - 7:03AM

    Nawaz Sharif has it right. Both nations and the rest of South Asia is sick and tired of this animosity. Much will be gained from friendship and harmony. We should focus of trade and economic development.

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  • Wasim
    Aug 18, 2011 - 7:03AM

    Thank GOD we are not same. How dare you endians to say that we are same.
    we are different thats why we have a border.
    No peace untill Kashmir issue is resolved.
    Now water issue is also a concern.
    So, endia must ready for war bcz next war (soon) will be on water issue.
    Be ready

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  • BruteForce
    Aug 18, 2011 - 8:28AM

    I think India has gone beyond any race with Pakistan. Her interests are simply very different.

    India is reducing poverty by the day. It has halved its poverty in 20 years, and it will again half its poverty in the next 10 years. Pakistan growing at 2.5% is only increasing poverty.

    Clearly India is doing something right that Pakistan is not. Pakistan has to decide if it wants to be like India or not.

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  • Salman
    Aug 21, 2011 - 6:07PM

    Mr. Nawaz Sharif is absolutely right, and I do hope India accepts Pakistan as it’s neighbor a reality, and stop acting as big brother. However, I have one advise to Nawaz Sharif, before proposing such visionary statements, he better start paying his due Taxes, as a Tax of mere Rs 5000 is not only a joke with the nation, but is equivalent to high treason.

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