There is an urgent need to evolve strong regional connectivity and cooperation to enhance trade and economic activities among South Asian countries.
These views were expressed by speakers at a seminar on “South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) Promise amid Indo-Pak Thaw” organised by SAFMA at its media centre here on Saturday.
SAFMA officials, diplomats of regional countries
and people from different walks of life attended the seminar.
Speaking on the occasion, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said, “SAARC is not proposing doing anything new, but wants the re-opening of historical routes, which is crucial for the socioeconomic development of the whole region.”
He said we need to focus on the connectivity of the regional countries to explore and exploit opportunities and resources for the welfare of SAARC countries. He said that SAARC countries need equal partnership to achieve their goals.
Alam appreciated Pakistan’s move of granting Most Favoured Nation status to India, adding that it would be a step forward towards enhancing bilateral trade and other economic activities. “I congratulate the government of Pakistan for starting the process of cooperation, which is in the interest of [both countries],” he said.
Imtiaz emphasised on the joint security plan for the region and suggested Pakistan “stop the proxy war in Afghanistan that it has been engaged in for the last 30 years.” He said there should be a consensus among regional countries over Afghanistan’s stability and the policy of withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014.
Bangladesh’s Deputy High Commissioner Mehfuzur Rehman said, “My country’s leaders have longed for a strong regional cooperation for over 34 years now and they are still willing to materialise it.” He urged for collective promises and shared responsibility to fight for the common interests of the regional countries.
India’s Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Bagley said India is committed to continue connectivity with regional countries whether to achieve a bilateral or a multilateral goal. Recalling the vision for regional integration of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he quoted him as saying, “I dream of a day when, while retaining our respective identities, one can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. That was how my forefathers lived. That is how I want our grandchildren to live.”
Afghan Embassy First Secretary Rahimullah was critical about Pakistani media for playing a negative role as far as issues of Afghanistan are concerned. He said that SAFMA could play a better role to counteract this.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.