ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage Syed Ali Zafar on Monday said that first and foremost component for regional cooperation and integration among the states was peace in the region.
Delivering his keynote address at a seminar on ‘Crossroads at Regional Integration’ here he said that Pakistan did not interfere in internal affairs of any other country and would not give right to anyone to interfere in its internal affairs as Pakistan had the right to make policies for overcoming challenges and raise living standard of its people.
The minister made it clear that the concept of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was meant to improve regional connectivity and economic progress and it had nothing to do with IMF loans. The minister said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) states could become instrumental in regional economic development by increasing regional cooperation. He said that inequality, increasing population, water and energy crisis were major challenges which needed to be tackled on an emergency basis.
He said that greatest gift that Pakistan enjoyed was its geography and strategic location and it was destined to play the role of a hub in regional trade.
The minister said that Pakistanis as a nation were desirous of peace and regional integration which essentially meant economic progress, however, it should be a good bargain for all states. There should be a win-win situation for all in the regional integration process as no country could be allowed to override authority and power to bulldoze its agenda in the name of regional integration.
The minister said that regional economic integration might also help to prevent and resolve conflicts by strengthening economic ties between Asian countries and help in exchange of knowledge, culture and heritage.
He said that integration of the adjoining regions of South, Central and West Asia dates from the era of the ancient silk route. Traders, saints, artists, artisans, philosophers and invaders all contributed to constructing a common history through cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious and other interactions, he remarked.
He said that Pakistan’s relations with regional neighbors remained friendly, with considerable potential for collaboration. Pakistan, he said, enjoyed influence within the wider international community due to its size, strategic location, military strength and economic potential.
Ali Zafar said that Pakistan followed the Quaid-e-Azam’s principle in the foreign policy realm as he had said, “Our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with the world at large. We have no aggressive designs against anyone. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.”
He said that regional initiatives could best be understood as a series of bargains among the political leadership of the major states in the region. It comprises management of the “mutual good” of the partner countries which was attained by establishing and implementing common rules, regulations and processes.
He said it was those rules, regulations, policies and, above all, their enforcement as embedded in treaty provisions which translated the aspirations of regional prosperity into reality – and today it was China’s One Road One Belt Initiative that had created the crossroads of regional integration for our area, extending into the African region, with CPEC as its flagship project via Pakistan’s port of Gwadar.
The minister said that Pakistan discouraged negative stereotypes; and wanted to normalize India-Pakistan relations, specifically resolve the Kashmir issue, discourage negative stereotypes; uproot terrorism and extremism, etc.
Syed Ali Zafar said that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was vital to achieve prosperity in the region and it was a good omen that both Kabul and Islamabad were on the same page on that issue. Pakistan had been making strenuous efforts in promoting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in Afghanistan and fostering cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism.
Later replying to the questions of the participants the minister said that Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir were one of the hurdles in the regional integration on the eastern borders. He said that Pakistan was the worst victim of terrorism and had given great sacrifices in the war against terrorism.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing, renowned scholar Professor Dr Riffiat Hussain and President Institute of Regional Studies Dr Rukhsana Qamar also spoke on the occasion.