Adversarial agenda of India detrimental to durable peace, trade in South Asia


Salim Ahmed

Lahore—SAARC cannot be dominated by the adversarial agenda, the cancellation of the summit means that India has effectively carved out a sub-region within SAARC, which is detrimental to durable peace in the region and its utility and significance will be lost totally if Pakistan is singled out for ulterior motives of nuclear neighbour to achieve nefarious designs of its hegemony in South Asia. This was stated by Vice-President SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry Pakistan Chapter Iftikhar Ali Malik here on Saturday while talking to a high level delegation of Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) headed by its Chief Executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq.
Malik said that SAARC should not be hijacked by shortsighted politico economic interests at any cost and urged all member states to guarantee social justice by ensuring the sustainable promotion of mutual trade and help alleviate the abject poverty in the region, which he added is rich in mineral deposits and natural resource that is to be exploited for the welfare of the poor strata of the region instead of hovering threats of mistrust. He said South Asia has the second highest poverty share at nearly 36 per cent in the world and over 30 per cent of children living in extreme poverty live in India alone. “Both Pakistan and India spend far too much on their military capabilities and not enough on their citizenry, particularly the poor,” adding he urged leaderships of the nuclear-armed neighbours to focus their resources to alleviate poverty.
Welcoming the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the people of Pakistan to wage a war on poverty, illiteracy and infant mortality, he said this shows that serenity is prevailing in the region after war hysteria between Pakistan and India. He appreciated Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif who in response of his Indian counterpart, said this challenge cannot be met with “blood and ammunition”. He said terrorism is a serious threat to peace in South Asia. Most terrorist movements are political and military adventure should not be the main method of countering this threat.” A meaningful dialogue between governments of the region is essential to build blocks of peace,” adding he said India should respect the aspirations of the people of the occupied Kashmir and grant them the rights of plebiscite according to the resolutions of United Nations.
However, he made it clear that SAARC is still a valuable forum for political dialogue in South Asia, but its economic role in the region has been mitigated by conflict and tension among its member states. Until these conflicts are resolved to the point where South Asian states are willing to reduce barriers to trade, it seems as if the vision of an economic interdependent South Asia is more of a dream than reality. Iftikahr Ali Malik also urged USA to intervene and help normalize the tense situation in the region. He said presidential candidate of USA Hillary Clinton, seized of the circumstances in the South Asia and after election to the august office of the President of USA ,Pakistan will enjoy more cordial relations as she met him during her last visit to Pakistan and exchanged result oriented views for the promotion of trade between the two countries.
On this occasion, PFC Chief Executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq, who is also a life member of SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry Pakistan said the formation of SAARC in December 1985 had raised hopes amongst the people of the region. “On the contrary the governments are increasing restriction on people to people contacts and dialogues,” adding he said that interaction across countries and regions would open possibilities to explore for a more just, peaceful, sustainable and equitable paths for development in the region and thus urge governments to work towards a visa free South Asia. He said that a total of 1/5th of the total population of the world is housed in this region.
He said SAARC can help promote political cooperation and serve as a forum for communication among South Asian leaders to diffuse the tension in the region. He said informal talks between Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers at the second SAARC summit in 1986 led to the diffusion of tension between the two countries on the issue of India’s Brasstacks exercise.” In January 2004, conciliatory talks between India and Pakistan were sparked by an upcoming SAARC conference. A breakthrough between Indian and Pakistani diplomats actually occurred at the conference,” he added.” Since political conflicts are a primary cause of SAARC’s inability to foster cooperation among its members, serving as a forum to alleviate those problems could in turn aid efforts to improve economic integration in the region, he concluded.