SAFMA conference: Regional cooperation key to Pakistan’s future says Nawaz

Published: January 9, 2013
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Sharif said he will try his best to restore normalcy to the India-Pakistan relationship should he be elected the next prime minister. PHOTO: File

Sharif said he will try his best to restore normalcy to the India-Pakistan relationship should he be elected the next prime minister. PHOTO: File

LAHORE: 

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has called for greater economic cooperation with India and other regional countries, saying that Pakistan cannot overcome its problems without them.

“Our problems have become so acute that they cannot be overcome simply by economic policies and reasonable conditions of security, unless they are complemented with and reinforced by cooperation in the region,” Sharif said in a speech at the South Asian Free Media Conference here on Tuesday.

The PML-Nawaz chief said that cooperation in the energy sector was particularly important, as it would ensure tangible and immediately visible benefits which would strengthen peace and stability.

“Cooperation in the sectors of energy and power should now occupy the highest priority for the regional countries, both bilaterally and through the mechanism of SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation]. There is an urgent need for this initiative as this energy starved region cannot strengthen its economy, in any significant way, without regional cooperation. This should then be extended to the energy-rich Central Asian states,” he said.

Sharif welcomed the government’s decision to improve trade relations with India as a step in the right direction, but added that it must also tackle the issue of non-tariff barriers and finalise a road map for freer trade.

“Our first and foremost task should be to identify areas where we can enhance and expand our economic and commercial cooperation. This is particularly applicable to Pakistan which has seen high population growth coupled with low rates of economic growth, pushing larger numbers into the poverty zone. The past decade has also witnessed an alarming decline in national development, particularly as regards allocation for the country’s growth and socio-economic development,” he said.  “Is it any surprise then that the entire region has suffered because of our failure to appreciate the negative fall-out that arises from subordinating economic realities to political considerations?”

Sharif said that the destinies of India and Pakistan were connected. “There can be no peace in one country, without peace in the other. Similarly, you cannot expect to have pockets of prosperity in a vast ocean of poverty. The challenges are enormous, but given a common vision and unflinching resolve, there is no reason why we should not be able to overcome them,” he said.He said that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement had failed, as intra-regional trade remained at around five per cent of the total trade of South Asian countries. “South Asia as a regional trading bloc has not made any significant contribution in improving India-Pakistan trade,” he added.

Sharif also stressed the need for cooperation in view of the damaging effects of climate change. “It is not only the people of this region who are yearning for peace; nature itself is pointing to the need for such a course of action. The manner in which climate change has transformed the environment and impacted on glaciers on the Himalayas, the Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains, which feed the mighty rivers, has highlighted the urgency of cooperation in the region to monitor the glaciers and scientifically study the monsoon patterns,” he added.

He welcomed the recent visa agreement between India and Pakistan, while calling for a greater exchange of journalists, academics, sportsmen and women and civil society “Visas must also be allowed to these categories,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Ijaz Nabi, the country director for the International Growth Centre, said that diplomats should not be in charge of discussing trade related issues. The political leadership and businessmen from the two countries should lead such discussions instead.

Safma General Secretary Imtiaz Alam said that the aim of the conference was to promote a culture of dialogue and an environment for tolerance, peace, conflict resolution and cross-border cooperation, leading towards a South Asian union. Political analysts Najam Sethi, Hassan Askari Rizvi and Khaled Ahmed also spoke at the conference.

Indo-Pak Ties: ‘I’ll try to stabilise relationship’

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has said he will try his best to restore normalcy to the India-Pakistan relationship should he be elected the next prime minister.

Talking to reporters at the sidelines of the South Asian Free Media Conference, Sharif said that peace was vital for the people of India and Pakistan. He said that economic cooperation could not be enhanced without a supportive political environment.  Asked about the long march on Islamabad planned by Dr Tahirul Qadri, Sharif said: “Those who are making tall claims will learn their worth when the long march is started.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • G. Din
    Jan 9, 2013 - 1:37AM

    “Pakistan cannot overcome its problems without them.”
    Pakistan, in return, promises to practice “The Art of Perfidious Diplomacy” with South Asian neighours because she considers them as important as US of A!

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  • Blithe
    Jan 9, 2013 - 1:58AM

    No K word???

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  • Born Political
    Jan 9, 2013 - 2:30AM

    I have to say, this guy nawaz shareef has matured as politician over the years. I will consider voting him.

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  • xor
    Jan 9, 2013 - 2:35AM

    I want to listen this by him LIVE.

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  • Falcon
    Jan 9, 2013 - 2:35AM

    Comparing the content of the speech with the interview (last paragraph) shows that the speech was certainly written by someone smarter.

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  • Majid
    Jan 9, 2013 - 4:02AM

    Sane words by Nawaz Sharif.

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  • Majid Urrehman
    Jan 9, 2013 - 4:14AM

    This man does not stop me wondering about his capabilities:
    “It is not only the people of this region who are yearning for peace; nature itself is pointing to the need for such a course of action. The manner in which climate change has transformed the environment and impacted on glaciers on the Himalayas, the Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains, which feed the mighty rivers, has highlighted the urgency of cooperation in the region to monitor the glaciers and scientifically study the monsoon patterns,”
    Now this is a totally new aspect which no policital party of Pakistan has yet considered – the environment. And seeing this whole new topic of environment as a subcontinental topic rather than just a national issue is a thing extraordinaire.

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 9, 2013 - 5:46AM

    Mature, sensible and experienced leader. God bless him..

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  • Ollie Raza
    Jan 9, 2013 - 8:23AM

    I am also surprised to hear from NS about environment. This something new in Pakistani politics. Even here in the USA, right wing shy away from the subject. If he is sincere in his words, NS has understood the present situation very well. I am not a voter but good luck to this candidate.

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  • faisy
    Jan 9, 2013 - 10:01AM

    @G. Din: Agreed!

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  • vikas
    Jan 9, 2013 - 11:16AM

    @G. Din:
    to be fair during the kargil fiasco this man came up as clean.. but as always their army didnt think the same way, guess why… money

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  • Hasnain
    Jan 9, 2013 - 4:33PM

    Nawaz Sharif is proving that he is truly a visionary leader without any rhetoric.
    My vote for PML-N.

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  • roadkashehzada
    Jan 9, 2013 - 5:02PM

    dont underestimate NS, he thought of motorways, airports and privatisation 23 yrs ago

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  • Elhaan Khan
    Jan 9, 2013 - 9:17PM

    Don’t worry Mian sab, military establishment is busy to escalate situation on LOC to make sure civilian govt efforts of making peace with India go wasted . Since Imran Khan also turned out to be a politician who wants peace with India, now they have imported this topi drama Qadri to make sure elections are helted so is the trade relations with India. Our Generals are not only problem for its own government to control but also neighboring countries .

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  • Pakistan Lover
    Jan 9, 2013 - 11:12PM

    @ Elhaan Khan: Sir, my assessment is that this pawn too of establishment will fail just like the failure of earlier pawn in the shape of tsunami.
    InshaAllah PML-N will rise to power with a sweeping mandate to rein-in the arrogant military establishment and work for the betterment of Pakistan through Motorways, Ghazi-Barotha Dam, Telecom & Banking reforms to create millions of jobs and lead economic growth.

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