Nawaz urges South Asian states to shun confrontation, build cooperation

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COLOMBO: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the distinguished gathering of Ministers, Parliamentarians, Senior Officials, Diplomatic Corps and others. INP PHOTO

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said that his vision for South Asia was a dispute-free zone where all the nations could jointly fight against their common enemies – illiteracy, poverty and malnutrition.

“South Asia needs strategic stability. We should build convergences and need dialogue for the better of region,” the prime minister said in a lecture delivered on the special invitation of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

Addressing a gathering of intellectuals, parliamentarians and diplomats on the topic ‘Pakistan-Sri Lanka Relations,’ he said it was time for South Asian countries to focus their energies on better preparing themselves to handle the global challenges.

Nawaz said that `cooperation not confrontation’ was his government’s policy and he believed in promoting harmony with all South Asian countries. He mentioned that he took the initiative to normalise relations with India and flew to New Delhi to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration ceremony. Besides, he said at the UN General Assembly forum, he floated a four-point feasible agenda for the restoration of peaceful relations between Pakistan and India.

Nawaz said that he was also deeply touched by Modi’s decision to fly to Lahore last month on his way back from Afghanistan, and in the next few days the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in Islamabad.

About Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan believes that a peaceful Afghanistan was in its interest and termed terrorism a common enemy for both countries.

He said Pakistan has consistently been supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned government and was ready to provide continued support for the resumption of the peace dialogue between the Afghan government and Taliban.

The prime minister said his government was implementing the true spirit of democracy and had devised a comprehensive development programme of `Four Es’ – promoting education, eliminating extremism, overcoming energy shortage and strengthening economy.

He emphasised that all strategies were being pursued with due fairness and transparency.

He said Pakistan was waging a comprehensive war against terrorism, which included striking sanctuaries and hideouts of terrorists in tribal areas.

He mentioned that through intelligence-based information, his government had struck a strong blow to the sleeper cells of militants and the operation was in final stage being carried out by the country’s valiant forces.

Nawaz Sharif said success in efforts to restore peace was not possible without the resolve of the entire nation and its continued resilience.

He said that radicalisation and global terrorism could not be eliminated until its root cause was addressed.

The prime minister said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoyed special and deep-rooted relations based on several commonalities.

He said that the people of Sri Lanka were close to the hearts of the people of Pakistan and appreciated the support extended by Sri Lanka to Pakistan at the regional and international level.

The prime minister highlighted the steps taken by his government, including economic reforms, which resulted in an increase of GDP and tax revenues, and reduction in inflation and budget deficit.

He mentioned that leading international publications, fund managers and rating agencies, including Bloomberg and Moody’s had given positive assessments about Pakistan’s economy.

Nawaz Sharif highlighted the focus of his government on regional and international connectivity and mentioned that the recently launched China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which included a multiple package of development projects worth Rs 46 billion.

He said Pakistan would soon turn into a strategic gateway of regional economy.

He mentioned that Pakistan was also promoting other regional energy and connectivity projects including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, Central Asia South Asia (CASA 1000), and the Torkham-Jalalabad Road in Afghanistan.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangla Samaraweera highlighted the level of close collaboration between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in diverse fields.