South Asia vows to boost trade as tensions ease | Pakistan Today

South Asia vows to boost trade as tensions ease

South Asian leaders ended a summit in the Maldives Friday with pledges to increase regional trade as arch rivals India and Pakistan demonstrated signs of easing tensions between them.
Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed said the eight-member grouping agreed to increase trade and economic cooperation through a string of agreements, including one on railways and motor vehicles.
There were no specific deadlines, but Nasheed said their foreign ministers were asked to work on time lines and other details. They also agreed to set up a mechanism to deal with piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The summit of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was overshadowed by a meeting between the Indian and Pakistan prime ministers who vowed a “new chapter” in their tense relations.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani said their next round of talks should be “far more productive” and “far more practical-orientated and “far more positive.”
Nasheed welcomed the easing in tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals and saw it as a boost to the SAARC, which also includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.
The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. Their previous talks were at the April 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.
Both the countries, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, struck an upbeat note ahead of the Maldives summit, with officials describing the cross-border atmosphere as “considerably improved”.
The US, which is an observer of SAARC, welcomed the easing of Indo-Pakistan tensions and said increasing trade and economic cooperation could also form a solid basis for political ties.
“The recent developments (between India and Pakistan) offer reason for significant hope,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert told the summit on Friday.
Last week, Pakistan’s cabinet announced it had approved a proposal giving India the status of “most favoured nation” but there has been confusion since about when it will be implemented.
Efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by concern over Afghanistan’s prospects as international troops start to depart after 10 years of fighting with the Taliban.
Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.
Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the summit that no one should fear his deal with India or another long-term partnership with the US.
“None of the partnerships will be a threat to our neighbours or others,” Karzai said.

Related posts