Aziz urges India to cooperate with Pakistan
* Prime minister says Pakistan capable of turning South Asia into an economic powerhouse
LAHORE: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has asked India to join hands with his country for making South Asia an economically vibrant region. “If India takes a step forward, Pakistan will respond by two. We will demonstrate flexibility, if India chooses to show the same,” Shaukat Aziz said in an article, “South Asia — an economic powerhouse in the making”, which he wrote for the seventh issue of the quarterly South Asian Journal.
In the exclusive article, Aziz said that with the shifting of world’s economic centre of gravity to Asia, Pakistan, as an anchor of stability at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and the Gulf region, could play a critical role in advancing cooperation, peace, stability and prosperity in these regions. Citing Pakistan’s good economic health, investment-friendly policies and infrastructure development, Aziz, who also oversees the country’s economic affairs, said Pakistan was well positioned geographically to emerge as a commercial hub.
“Pakistan, today, is engaged simultaneously at home and abroad on defending basic human values and to avert conflicts and crises. We are committed to promoting peace in our adjoining regions. A vision of peaceful cooperation must imbue our efforts to leverage the full potential of South Asia for progress and development.” South Asia, he said, cannot remain indefinitely mired in poverty and affliction. “We have resources, talent, skills and industrious peoples. We have a great capital — our human resource. It is second to none. We have the ability to turn South Asia into an economic powerhouse of the world,” he added. The prime minister called the Pakistan-India equation central to the functioning of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). “The recent improvement in atmospherics between India and Pakistan helped propel the process of regional cooperation in South Asia.””
“Under SAARC we are coming together in South Asian Free Trade Area, a very attractive arrangement for all of us. We are also working towards Customs cooperation; setting up an Arbitration Council; working instrument on Avoidance of Double Taxation; and on promotion and protection of investments.”
“In SAARC we should share best practices and create mutual dependencies and linkages. All this would create South Asian dynamics for growth and development,” he said. He added India and Pakistan could do a lot for themselves. “The Gas Pipeline Project could be a huge and successful CBM. We can offer India an energy corridor. We could promote tourism and trade and many other areas of cooperation.”
Bilaterally, India has a huge advantage in balance of trade, he said. “It is important to identify reasons that make it difficult for Pakistan to get access to the Indian market. ... It is important to create a level playing field and facilitate private sector interaction.” Aziz said Pakistan and India needed to cultivate good neighbourly relations. “We must respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and base our relations on sovereign equality. We should respect the principles of non-intervention and non-interference. We must endeavor to win each other’s trust and confidence.”
Pakistan-India relations, Aziz said, are not ordained to remain adversarial perpetually. “It is time for a strategic re-think. It is time to move away from rigid mindset. We must be realistic and pragmatic. The time has come to bridge the trust deficit. Both sides must move away from conditioned reflexes to open new avenues and cover fresh ground in our bilateral relations,” he said.
Aziz said India and Pakistan must learn from history and experience of other nations in managing the region and bilateral relations. “We need to seek just and durable solutions of all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir. It is time to accommodate in full the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. This is an imperative of justice, history and democracy.”
Dubbing his visit to New Delhi last November as useful, he said his dialogue with Indian leadership was ‘very constructive’. “We want good neighbourly relations based on sovereign equality. We have the courage to take bold decisions to move the relations forward. We must think ‘out of the box’. By adhering to old mindsets the present opportunities could easily be lost,” he said. “In short, we are sincere and serious and expect this to be reciprocated. Let us both prove the pundits of gloom and doom wrong. A new beginning, a new dawn awaits the peoples of South Asia. Let’s work together for a promising tomorrow,” the prime minister concluded.
Backed by South Asian Free Media Association, the South Asian Journal addresses issues ranging from economy to security, politics to culture and nature of societies to conflicts of states in South Asia. courtesy south asian journal