Designs of enemies of peace must be frustrated: PM
Babar Dogar & Faizan Bangash
LAHORE: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday said the designs of the enemies of peace, who exist on both sides of the divide, must be frustrated, and called for protecting the peace initiatives being taken by both countries for the prosperity of the people of the subcontinent.
While addressing the inaugural session of the second Aman Ki Asha Indo-Pak Economic Conference here, the premier elaborated his contention saying: “We face many challenges and threats from forces inimical to peace.
“We are passing through turbulent times in our history in which non-state actors are all out to harm the peace process. Such forces are present on both sides of the border and we have to remain vigilant that they do not succeed in ruining our hard-earned gains.”
Highlighting the contribution of the Aman Ki Asha initiative, the PM said it had been playing a great role in materialising the all-important goal of achieving peace in the region, which is imperative for meeting combined future economic goals. However, while expressing concerns over the obstacles in the way of mutual understanding, PM Gilani said both countries had already lost precious time and they should not allow more time to be wasted. He claimed during that past 12 months, the two countries have moved fast not just to normalise relations but also remove irritants which hampered trade and economic relations.
The PM commended the efforts of Aman Ki Asha, the media-led joint peace movement of the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, adding it had pushed forward the peace agenda and economic cooperation at a time when tensions ran high between both countries.
PM Gilani appreciated both the Jang Group and The Times of India for collaborating with the business communities of both countries to promote the cause of peace. The PM said the Aman Ki Asha organisers called him in December 2009 and he extended unwavering support to the cause of peace and people-to-people contact on behalf of the people and the government. He said despite the ups and downs in their bilateral relations, Pakistan’s support to the cause of peace and normalisation of relations with India had remained steadfast. He said Pakistan’s closest friend and strategic partner, China, was also in favour ofnormalisation of relations with India.
The PM, while quoting the recent visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to India, said the president’s visit had been aimed at pushing the peace process forward and ensuring that it gathered an unstoppable momentum. “As the democratic government enters the fifth year of its term, improved relations with India is one of our cherished goals towards which we continue to make considerable progress,” he added.
The PM welcomed the Indian government’s announcement to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) from Pakistan and claimed that they were now awaiting some practical steps for the removal of non-tariff barriers, which could hamper Pakistan’s exports to the Indian market.
The PM, while appreciating the impressive gathering of business tycoons from both India and Pakistan, stated that they were the minds who help generate wealth and economic activity, which was vital for the progress and prosperity of any country.
The PM said the engine of economic growth should not be affected by regional tensions and conflicts, as it required peace and an enabling environment.
Gilani said it was high time both countries shed the baggage of the past and grabbed the opportunity in hand. “We must act with urgency to build relations of mutual trust and respect – relations that allow us to tap the massive economic and creative potential of the peoples of the two countries.” He expressed his confidence that his government as well the government of Premier Manmohan Singh were deeply committed to the process of normalising relations.
He said it was in April 2011 when the two countries announced their intention to normalise bilateral trade relations and, by April 2012, they had made huge strides in this direction. “We have recently witnessed the opening of the Wagah-Attari Trade Gate, which would go a long way in boosting the volume of trade between the two countries.”
During the tenure of the incumbent government, Pakistan has achieved many economic milestones including record exports of $25 billion in the last financial year. But, he claimed that they were aware of the fact that without enhancing regional trade, the country could not realise its full potential. “Therefore, improved relations with India are important for Pakistan as it offered a billion plus market to the Pakistani exporters,” he added.
The PM said there were many areas and sectors with huge trade potential as well as opportunities for collaboration – from information technology to engineering, education and health. He claimed a liberal trade regime, ensured flow of cheaper imports for both countries due to their geographical proximity and resultantly lower freight costs. He said Pakistan’s textiles had a huge market across the border. Similarly, he stated India could get buyers for its chemicals, pharmaceutical items and engineering goods, among many other items.
He said Pakistan wanted all the core issues settled through dialogue on an equitable basis. “We want to start a new era of economic collaboration with India as well as enhanced people-to-people contacts so that we leave behind a legacy of peace and prosperity for our future generations,” he stated.
While concluding his speech, the PM said the participants of the Aman Ki Asha conference were the best ambassadors of peace for both countries. He said each participant of the conference had an important role to play in furthering the relationship and building the foundations of a durable peace.
He termed the participants, including foreign delegates, champions of peace and proponents of prosperity and expressed the hope that their deliberations in the two-day conference would open up the gates of a prosperous future for the poverty-stricken peoples of Pakistan and India.