President Mamnoon Hussain here on Wednesday called for turning the platform of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) effective through strong regional connectivity and people to people contact. addressing a conference on Peace in South Asia, organized by Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), he said the region home to around 1.7 billion, representing 21% of the world population, is in urgent need of peace.
“South Asia is mired in several crisis and conflicts at the moment due to various unresolved political and geographical factors,” said the President.
Mentioning that the situation was getting all the more complex due to India’s ongoing arms build-up, instability in Afghanistan and the menace of terrorism, he said the situation can be aptly tackled through regional cooperation and settling of longstanding disputes.
“I believe that the whole region of South Asia is in search for peace and prosperity, however, these have become elusive due to war and conflicts,” regretted President Mamnoon Hussain.
He reiterated that destiny of the people in region was linked with each other and it is only through mutual cooperation that they can fight poverty, unemployment, climate change, militancy and other public issues.
President Mamnoon Hussain on the occasion also urged the South Asian countries to create conducive environment for peace and mutual cooperation by taking advantage of One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative,in particular context of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Services offered by Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) alongwith OBOR and CPEC will help the region attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), presently quite low as compared to other regions,” he said.
SAARC’s failure to emerge as unifying multilateral organization due to hegemonistic aspirations of a member state, he said has also kept the region hostage to poverty, social backwardness, extremism and radicalization largely manifested through regional instability.
“It is imperative to sincerely promote mutual cooperation to alleviate poverty and improve social condition of the people of South Asia in general,” said the President of Pakistan warning that otherwise strife and conflict would persist leading chaos, violence, crimes and terrorism.
Urging countries in the region to avoid fanning regional differences and take concrete measures for liberalization of visa policy (for business purpose), he said this would propel economic growth in the region and help meet the challenge of poverty alongwith associated implications.
President Mamnoon Hussain said South Asian countries also need to evolve unity on the pattern of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure durable progress in the region.
Reiterating that Pakistan believes in promoting regional cooperation and institution building for resolving the security issues of South Asia, he said the platform of SCO was also available for achieving regional integration.
President Mamnoon Hussain on the occasion particularly referred to Afghanistan emphasizing that along with promoting economic cooperation and regional connectivity there was also a need to focus on stabilizing Afghanistan.
“Turmoil in Afghanistan has worsened the matters giving rise to multifaceted security issues in the region,” he said reminding that only a stable Afghanistan could become a great transit corridor connecting Central, South and West Asia.
The President also minced no words in mentioning that unresolved conflicts of Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen were the major obstacles in achieving stability in South Asia.
The deteriorating situation in Kashmir, consequent to India’s absolute disregard towards the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir had adversely affected the regional peace, he said.
“Kashmiris in the Indian occupied state are engaged in a legitimate struggle to exercise their right to self-determination, also guaranteed under the UN Security Council’s resolutions,” said President Mamnoon Hussain.
The session was also addressed by Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and Dr Masooma Hussain, Chairperson, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.—APP