My vision for the region is a dispute-free South Asia: PM Nawaz

2014-11-26 00:21:41 | Al Muslim News
My vision for the region is a dispute-free South Asia: PM Nawaz

 

KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that his vision for the region was of a dispute-free South Asia where instead of fighting one another, the countries jointly fought poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnourishment and unemployment. He stated the above during a speech at the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) being held in Kathmandu and highlighted the importance of the organisation and how it epitomised the aspirations of the people of the region for peace and prosperity. Appreciating the theme of the 18th summit, “Deeper Regional Integration for Peace and Prosperity”, the premier said, "The focus on deeper integration for peace and prosperity is most appropriate and reflects our common desire for promoting mutual understanding and reaching out to each other to create a win-win scenario." He said "Saarc must capture the imagination of our people and contribute to create strong and mutual beneficial bonds. Saarc can contribute immensely towards building a trust surplus among member states." "Interfaith and intercultural harmony must find special emphasis in its programs." Sharif said that the region, which is home to nearly one quarter of the global population, is mired in poverty, disease and illiteracy with lowest human and social indicators. “More than one-fifth of the population is between 15-24 years of age which is the largest number of youth to ever make transition into adulthood," he said. Sharif added, "The region however accounts for only six per cent of the world’s GDP in purchasing power parity, and only four per cent share in the world trade while attracting only three percent of the global FDI we are one of the least integrated regions in the world.” "We should invest in our youth to unleash their creativity, talent and enterprise. We need our bonds of trust so we can solve our problems," he said. Sharif noted that all South Asian countries were vibrant democracies and added that, "We earnestly hope that old and new democracies in South Asia will join hands to make the region happy and prosperous." He further said "The recent monsoon floods in South Asian countries raised the importance of regional coordination on cross-border information sharing and early flood forecasting as human-induced and natural disaster affects everybody, irrespective of national boundaries and economic status." “In pursuing the Saarc socio-economic agenda we must pay special attention to rural development, expansion of agricultural resource base, development of action plans to combat communicable diseases, promotion of greater collaboration in the health sector, elimination of illiteracy, scientific and technological capacity building and development of information and communication technology.” The PM said the economic development of South Asia is closely linked to the availability of energy at an affordable price and added that: "With abundant alternate energy resources available region-wide, we need to collectively focus on harnessing indigenous energy production potential." He further said that arrangements for trans-regional oil and gas pipelines should also be considered and added that due to its geographical location, Pakistan is a natural economic corridor for the region. "Promoting regional connectivity is one of the seven pillars of our development strategy. My government is actively pursuing this initiative which has the potential to integrate South Asia, China and Central Asia – the three engines of growth in Asia," the PM said. "A soft visa-regime would greatly facilitate the realisation of these objectives." Concluding his speech, the prime minister said: "Having hosted the fourth and 12th Saarc summits, Pakistan would be pleased to offer itself to host the 19th summit in Islamabad." Earlier, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala lit a torch to formally inaugurate the summit. PM Nawaz had arrived in Nepal on Tuesday to attend the Saarc summit. Read: India should take initiative to resume talks: PM Talking to reporters aboard his flight from Islamabad to Kathmandu, Nawaz had said the decision to hold foreign secretary-level talks had been taken by both the prime ministers and they “should not have been cancelled unilaterally”. “Now the ball is in India’s court,” he said while referring to New Delhi’s unilateral decision to call off foreign secretary-level talks which were due in August this year. Indian Prime Minister Narendara Modi will hold meetings on the sidelines of the summit with all the Saarc leaders except his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, according to an Indian official who said Islamabad had not requested a meeting. In his remarks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the regional countries should work together to combat terrorism. Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed said Saarc food bank and seed bank should be established to ensure food security in the region Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa underscored the need for Saarc to address the widening disparity between rich and poor, rural and the urban dwellers and create a vibrant economy in the region. In his remarks, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala stressed the need of strong regional cooperation to tap the full potentials of South Asia.

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