The fifth South Asia Economic Summit begins here today (Tuesday) as hopes fly high that the eight-nation regional bloc can get a significant boost from the successful culmination of Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan, providing a rare opportunity to craft mutual solutions to the common problems.
The summit will frame the recommendations for the 18th Summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), to be held in Nepal and attended by the heads of the regional governments. The meeting coincides with gathering of world leaders in China at the platform of the World Economic Forum.
The timing of the conference provides an ideal opportunity where formal diplomacy will now be supplemented by the diplomacy through wider participation of all the stakeholders, said Dr Vaqar Ahmad, Head of Economic Growth Unit of Sustainable Development Policy Institute Pakistan (SDPI). The SDPI is the secretariat for the fifth Economic Summit.
The theme of the summit is making growth inclusive and sustainable in the South Asian region and chalk out comprehensive set of recommendations for heads of the governments. The participants will set the priorities with a background of global financial crisis that has started impacting the South Asian region. The forecasts show that the South Asian region’s growth will decline at least for next two quarters.
The first day session will outline the ‘Development Agenda for a New South Asia’. It will discuss what the agenda calls the new opportunities for South Asia given the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan.
The participants also aimed at taking up the thorny issue of non-traditional security threats to the region that include governance, food security, conflict-led and disaster-led migrations, health epidemics, cross border terrorism and environmental security. The stakeholders will try to find out solutions to the problem of black carbon emissions emitted by India causing melting of Pakistan’s glaciers.
As Pakistan and India gradually make progress towards normalisation of trade ties, the participants will review regional trade agreements and propose a way forward with a broader aim of seamless regional integration. The recent patterns of Pak-India trade ties will become the base for future recommendations. The regional free trade agreements will also be reviewed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.