Pakistan offers to play stronger role in SAARC integration
Updated: 2014-11-26 14:59
KATHMANDU - Pakistan on Wednesday offered to host the next summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and to play a stronger role in integrating South Asia with China and Asia.
The offer came as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharrif addressed the 18th summit of the SAARC which kicked off in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
The Pakistani prime minister said his country stands with the SAARC to promote regional cooperation.
"Pakistan attaches high importance to SAARC. More than a fifth of the population is between the ages of 15-24 but attracts only three percent of the world's foreign direct investment and is one of the lowest integration area. Therefore, we must reach out to create a win-win situation," he noted.
He called for people to be made the center of the bloc so that they can integrate with the economy and build trade surplus as well as promote cultural connectivity and build a common identity. People-centered policies can also reduce poverty and empower vulnerable groups such as women.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharrif said all south Asian countries are vibrant democracies and called on them to share their experiences, best practices and institutional linkages for sustainable development.
Human induced and natural disasters were particularly focused on by him as they need cross-border cooperation as well as promoting balanced growth.
"The underdevelopment of south Asia is closely linked to lack of affordable energy. We need to collectively focus on harnessing indigenous energy as well as trans-regional gas and fuel pipelines. Pakistan is actively pursuing this initiative to integrate South Asia, China and Asia. A soft visa process would facilitate this process," he noted.
He stressed a dispute-free south Asia where the member countries would fight poverty, disease and illiteracy. "We need bonds of trust so we can prosper," he said, also offering to host the next SAARC summit in Pakistan.
Eight SAARC members will hold discussions for collective development at the two-day summit themed "Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity".
Established in 1985 in Bangladesh, the SAARC is a regional association of eight South Asian countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined SAARC as its eighth member state in 2007.