Lahore: PML-N president Nawaz Sharif has said that we have failed to evolve a satisfactory code of conduct in PAk-India relations.While giving speech at SAFMA,Mian Nawaz Sharif said please also allow me to offer my compliments to SAFMA and to acknowledge its credible efforts to promote goodwill and understanding in our region. Its success has demonstrated the helpful role the media can play in promoting tolerance and accommodation, through exchange of concepts and ideas.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Before I speak on the economic issues and their relationship to politics in the region – for there is an undeniable linkage between the two – it would be in the fitness of things to make a brief reference to the many far-reaching transformations witnessed in our lifetimes. You would recall the expectation that arose when the Soviet Union’s dissolution brought an end to the super-power rivalry, popularly described as the Cold War. This encouraged some to proclaim a New World Order, premised on making the world a more just and equitable place, not only in politics but in economics as well.
The developing countries of Asia and Africa, long mired in poverty, mal-nutrition and ill health, looked forward to the promise of a fairer global trading regime. Equally important was the excitement over the prospect of differences and disputes being resolved through peaceful negotiations, with the United Nations used as the primary vehicle for strengthening peace and promoting cooperation.
Sadly, none of these expectations have materialized. Instead, the past decade has been a period of disappointment for the world, as it is yet to see any of the promised peace dividend coming its way. The United Nations has either been ignored or used to promote narrow, ill-defined agendas that have little to do with the role envisaged for it by its framers. The global trading regime too, remains hindered by the failure of the developed countries to demonstrate the spirit of accommodation necessary to ensure a fairer deal for the developing countries. In fact, the post-Cold War period has seen frequent great power interventions in sovereign states, resulting in conflicts and wars that have been responsible for the death of thousands and misery for many more.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now as regards our own region, we know that countries of South Asia are endowed with impressive human, as well as natural resources that would be the envy of any nation. Our people have long been recognized as amongst the most imaginative and enterprising; their role and contribution to the development of many foreign countries has been widely recognized. We have a population of over a billion and a half and yet, regrettably, our contribution to the world’s economy is not commensurate either with the capabilities of our people, or with the natural resources that the Almighty has bestowed on us.
It is not only that we have failed to evolve a satisfactory code of conduct in our bilateral relations, but have not even allowed the only regional organization that brings us together—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation—to live up to the expectations of its Founding Fathers. The smaller countries are not too far off in their oft-repeated observation that the continuing inability of India and Pakistan to resolve their differences has been the primary factor preventing the successful implementation of many of SAARC’s laudable initiatives.
We all know that the SAARC member-states are diverse in terms of size, economic and social development, geography, political systems, languages and cultures. The region constitutes nearly 23% of the world’s population, but accounts for only around 2% of the world’s goods trade and around 3% of the world’s direct investment.
Despite important reforms undertaken in South Asian economies in recent years, the region remains one of the poorest in terms of per capita income, as evident from the fact that though SAARC is one of the largest economic blocks in the world, it accounts for almost 67% of the low income population of the world. The region also lags behind in the field of infrastructure, social provisions and institution building. Intra-regional trade is also relatively low, compared with other regions, such as ASEAN. Consequently, in terms of shares in the world trade, South Asia remains insignificant. This is all the more disappointing when it is widely acknowledged by both economists and social scientists that regional cooperation is the most effective instrument for achieving national growth and development. This has however, not been possible because political differences have come in the way of economic cooperation.
Is it any surprise then that the entire region has suffered because of our failure to appreciate the negative fall-out that arises from subordinating economic realities to political considerations? Moreover, to this date, the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) remains only an ambitious initiative aimed at boosting regional trade flows, but it has fallen far short of its goals. Intra-regional trade continues to stay around 5% of total trade of South Asian countries, which means that South Asia as a regional trading block has not made any significant contribution to improving Indo-Pakistan trade.
Our first and foremost task should therefore be to identify areas where we can enhance and expand our economic and commercial cooperation. This is particularly applicable to Pakistan which has seen high population growth coupled with low rates of economic growth, pushing larger numbers into the poverty zone. The past decade has also witnessed an alarming decline in national development, particularly as regards allocation for the country’s growth and socio-economic development. At the same time, the deteriorating security situation has not only discouraged foreign direct investment from coming to the country. Thus our problems have become so acute that they cannot be overcome simply by economic policies and reasonable conditions of security, unless it is complemented with and reinforced by cooperation with the region, and within the region.
This would explain why my major interest has always been in the field of economic growth and development. Even though both our terms in office were unconstitutionally curtailed, the PML(N) Government was successful in introducing far-reaching reforms. I was determined to break the shackles of stifling state controls in order to liberalize the economy and to encourage the genius of our people to thrive in an environment of creative freedom. The independence of the State Bank was ensured, privatization of the sick and inefficient industries undertaken and restrictions on movement of foreign currency lifted. These reforms were hailed as revolutionary and many countries, including India expressed not only its admiration, but a desire to study them. In the second term, we were able to focus on projects that came to play an important role in strengthening the country’s energy, power and communication sectors.
Our vision was not confined to mere development of our own country, but included expansion and strengthening of economic cooperation with neighboring countries, as I recognized that there was no better instrument for promoting meaningful and sustainable growth than our regional organization– SAARC. The remarkable success of the European Union and ASEAN had proven the advantages of this approach.
I am however, cognizant of the fact that economic cooperation cannot take place unless the political environment is supportive of this effort. This would explain the earnestness with which I undertook to reach out to the neighboring countries and I feel a sense of great satisfaction in informing you that I was privileged to enjoy excellent relations with them all, including the Honorable Prime Ministers of India. Let me pause and express my deep condolences at the passing away of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, a wonderful human being and a genuine believer in peace and friendship with neighboring countries.
Some of you would be aware that at the very beginning of our second term in office, we started off establishing cordial, tension-free relations with India. My vision of a peaceful South Asia was reinforced by my appreciation of the fact that unless the two countries were able to recognize the imperative of resolving their differences by means of peaceful negotiations, neither country, nor the region, would be able to enjoy the fruits of growth and development. You are aware of how Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and I were able to reach an understanding during our cordial and constructive dialogue in Lahore in February 1999. There is no denying that Mr. Vajpayee deserves great credit for the successful outcome of the Summit. He demonstrated great resolve and initiative in promptly responding to my invitation and for sharing my vision of a peaceful and cooperative South Asia. In fact, the Lahore Declaration envisaged a promising road map for resolution of our differences, while protecting the interests of all parties and ensuring peace and stability in this region. It is therefore, a matter of deep regret for me, and surely for the international community as well, that the bold and sincere initiative taken by the elected leaderships of the two countries, was sabotaged.
The setback to the Lahore Process has however, only strengthened my resolve to pick up the threads where it was left, if we ever get the opportunity again. It is my earnest desire to make a modest contribution to fostering of cordial and cooperative inter-state relations in South Asia. The people of this region share a common destiny which has to be based on the principle of sovereign equality and mutually beneficial peaceful, cooperative and good-neighborly economic and political ties among all the states.
This also explains why I am of the view that the decision to normalize trade relations with India is a step in the right direction. It will bring stability and remove arbitrariness in trade matters. In fact, as signatories to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), both countries are obliged not to discriminate against each other in matters of trade. It is however essential for the Government to iron out the related issues with India, including removal of non-tariff barriers and finalizing a road map for freer trade. The Government must also engage in detailed consultations with the stakeholders, especially on related aspects, such as standardization issues.
The agreement on a liberal visa regime is to be welcomed as well. Similarly, exchange of media representatives, scholars, sportsmen and women and members of the civic society should be encouraged as it can go a long way in removing many of the myths and misconceptions that have created walls of distrust among us. Visas must also be allowed to these categories.
In my view, cooperation in the sectors of energy and power should now occupy the highest priority for the regional countries, both bilaterally and through the mechanism of SAARC. There is an urgent need for this initiative as this energy starved region cannot strengthen its economy, in any significant way, without regional cooperation, that should then be extended to the energy–rich Central Asian states. Meaningful understanding in these sectors would ensure tangible and immediately visible benefits to the people, which would contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the region.
I am aware of the many differences and disputes that have continued to haunt Pakistan-India relations. Some of these are the legacy of history, while others have emerged in recent years. I however remain confident and convinced that if the two countries remain engaged in sincere and uninterrupted dialogue process, there is no reason why we should not be able to make steady progress towards resolution of all our differences.
May I also point out that it is not only the peoples of this region who are yearning for peace; nature itself is pointing to the need for such a course of action. The manner in which climate change has transformed the environment and impacted on glaciers on the Himalayas, the Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains, which feed the mighty rivers, has highlighted the urgency of cooperation in the region to monitor the glaciers and scientifically study the monsoon patterns. The challenge emanating from this development strengthens the urgency of initiating meaningful cooperation amongst the countries of the region.
Let us not forget that we are not only neighboring states, but the fates of a billion and a half people are inter-connected. There can be no peace in one country, without peace in the other. Similarly, you cannot expect to have pockets of prosperity in a vast ocean of poverty. The challenges are enormous, but given a common vision and unflinching resolve, there is no reason why we should not be able to overcome them.
Later,while talking to media Nawaz Sharif said Tahir ul Qadri has nothing in his pockets and long march is not an easy task.