Experts urge the South Asian policymakers to prioritize dialogue over bilateral disputes between the states
LAHORE – Enhancing people-to-people contact and institutional collaborations especially among the universities of Asian states is the best way forward to the much-needed inter-regional as well as intra-regional connectivity, according to the speakers at a policy dialogue held in Lahore.
Speakers at the international conference on “Inter-Regional Connectivity: South Asia and Central Asia” urged the policymakers of South Asia and Central Asia states that benefits of geo-economics are immense so economic affairs should take precedence over bilateral disputes between the states.
Experts also suggested establishing a permanent think-tank where academicians and researchers could debate on the emerging issues of inter-regional connectivity.
The policy dialogue, held at Government College University (GCU) Lahore, was chaired by GCU Dean Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Prof Dr Tahir Kamran, while Ching Chang from Society for Strategic Studies China, Dr. Sinderpal Singh from Nanyang Technological University Singapore, Mr Jonathan Fulton from Zayed University, UAE, Dr Bilveer Singh, Dr Martin Hribek, Dr Sinderpal Singh and Mr Ajith Balasooriya.
As many as 25 foreign experts from Russia, China, India, Nepal, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, UK, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Sri Lanka, Thailand Singapore and USA are participating in the conference to discuss geopolitics of corridors: building economic and political linkages, energy security, socio-cultural connectivity and peace and security-centric cooperation during the six technical sessions of the conference.
The speakers said major initiatives towards Inter-Regional Connectivity included opening of borders, building logistic infrastructure, extending land access and entering currency swap and free trade agreements. “These initiatives would reduce poverty and enhance living standards of the people,” they said. Minister Begum Zakia Shahnawaz hoped that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would prove to be the much-needed economic lifeline of the whole region.
The other speakers also agreed that an increase in trade and enhanced connectivity would make regional countries a stakeholder in peace and stability while easing the energy constraint for economic growth.
Foreign policy expert Ahmed Rashid said that China who was major player in this Great Game of inter-regional and intra-regional connectivity must make efforts in ending conflicts between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistan and India.
The speakers deliberated on the need for redefining the whole idea of conventional sovereignty and also explored the social, political and dimensions of interregional connectivity.
Prof Dr. Tahir Kamran said that there was a need for effective and joint measures by the states to counter ethnic hostilities and religious extremism which figure strongly in the limited progress on inter regional connectivity till date.
The conference chairman, Prof Dr Khalid Manzoor Butt, said that there was a strong realization among the Central Asian and South Asian states for inter-regional economic cooperation, and for the realization of this goal, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be effectively exploited to create an integrative line between Pakistan and Central Asian states particularly Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan via Afghanistan to engage and involve these republics into this profit seeking venture to create an environment for the comprehensive, sustainable and uniform progress for peace and stability of the whole region.
Mr Ching Chgang said that South Asia itself contains serious strategic unbalance. “India deeply suspects China’s plan of ‘One Belt One Road’ and refuses to cooperate even in literal or oral way. The main reason is not because India still memorizes the pain caused by 1962 war, but also strongly related to the ‘unbalance status quo’ created by India which would be bound to be destroyed by China’s plan,” he said.
Dr Sinderpal Singh said that sovereignty and the integrity of territorial borders have been core concerns for the post- colonial states since their inception as independent nation states.
As many 32 research papers were also presented at the three technical sessions of the conference.