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South Asia peace linked to resolution of political disputes: Nawaz

09 January, 2013

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LAHORE: Former prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has said that the goals of peace and prosperity cannot be achieved in South Asia unless political differences among the member states are resolved.

Addressing the second segment of the South Asian Free Media Association's (SAFMA) 8th regional conference here on Tuesday, Nawaz said that political differences and deteriorating security situation had always come in the way of increasing cooperation among the SAARC states. "The fate of millions of people in South Asia is inter-connected. There can be no peace in one country without peace in the other," he said. The PML-N chief said that a step forward towards peace was inevitable for the people of Pakistan and India, adding that economic development could not be achieved until political ambience was not conducive.

Informal trade between Pakistan and India will get a boost if the neighbouring country is declared the Most Favoured Nation (MFN), he said. Nawaz vowed to bring back the relations between the two countries to normalcy if he became the prime minister of Pakistan again. He said that Pakistan and India would have to make effort for the resolution of bilateral disputes to end poverty and economic miseries in the region.

The PML-N, during its two incomplete tenures, had brought economic reforms in the country and took a number of steps to boost the economy, he said, adding that developing good relations with India was the motto of his party. He called upon all the South Asian countries to increase cooperation in the energy sector, which is vital to economic development in the region. Earlier, introducing the objectives of the conference, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said that delegates from eight South Asian states gathered with a message of "opening minds and relaxing borders".

"We are not against borders, but we want borders should not create hindrance in the way of boosting trade and people-to-people contact in the region," he said. "Our message is not India- and Pakistan-specific. We are here to promote the SAARC's agenda of increasing connectivity, building up communication network and encourage greater regional bonds," he argued. The conference during its various sessions, examined the idea of a South Asian vision for an economic union, discussed the situation of human rights, minorities, and women in the region, focused on the media, peace, and cooperation in South Asia and provided a summary of the final conference declaration, drawing on the recommendations presented at each session.

Over 200 delegates from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives participated in the conference with a theme "A South Asian Vision and Union".

The first segment of the conference was held in Amritsar on January 5 to 6. The 4-day conference will conclude today.


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