Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif participated in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) 2022 in Kazakhstan during which he met various head of the states including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and thoroughly discussed ways and means of further strengthening of bilateral relations in terms of trade, investment, economy, joint ventures, and connectivity.
The CICA 2022 has great significance in terms of socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic trends & orientations in the region and beyond.
It celebrated its 30 years anniversary which also completed the two-year presidency of Kazakhstan which has been striving very hard to convert CICA into a full-fledged organization.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev headed the CICA 2022 and while meeting with different heads of state, discussed the expansion of trade and economic relations.
Tokayev expressed gratitude to China for supporting Kazakhstan’s idea to transform the CICA into a full-fledged international organization during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.
While meeting with the Kazak president Tokayev Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also emphasized the need for the immediate resumption of direct flights between the two countries.
During the meeting matters of energy cooperation, oil & gas imports, gas swap, connectivity, agriculture and trade & commerce cooperation were discussed and it was decided to form an Energy Corridor for the import and facilitation of the Kazak energy supplies to Arabian and South Asian countries via Gwadar.
He met with Vice President of Vietnam Vo Thi Anh Xuan and noted the potential for expanding cooperation in tourism, agriculture, transportation, logistics, and finance and discussed the launch of flights between the two countries.
CICA stands for interaction, understanding and collaboration and is based on six dimensions i.e. economic, investment, human, environment, joint efforts to combat new threats and new challenges, politico-military cooperation and during his keynote speech Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif covered all aspects and dimensions of the CICA 2022.
He strongly favoured peaceful dialogue in resolving conflicts with other countries, including the neighbouring India, to achieve the goals of prosperity of the nations and the region.
He said Pakistan desired peaceful relations with all its neighbours including India. He showed his government willingness to engage with India for the sake of prosperity and development as both sides of the border cannot afford to deal with massive challenges of poverty and unemployment amid meagre resources.
Critical analysis of the speech of the prime minister reveals that it was focused on peace, prosperity and peaceful persuasions of greater regional connectivity among nations.
He emphasized to promote cooperation, security and stability in Asia. PM Sharif stressed that the people deserved the resources to be diverted to their education and health.
He however, said, the “onus remains on India to take a necessary step to engage towards the result-oriented solutions.
”He mentioned Kashmir which has been a security flash point in South Asia and highlighted India’s unabated atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir for the last seven decades, where he said that the Kashmiris faced continued denial of their right to self-determination.
He urged other countries to take notice of India’s ‘bullet over ballot’ policy as it blatantly quashed the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on holding a plebiscite in Kashmir.
“India has become a threat to its minorities, neighbours and the entire region,” he said. Sharif said Pakistan was “absolutely ready and willing for a discussion with Indian counterparts to promote trade and investment provided they showed the sincerity of purpose”.
He talked about Afghanistan and said the four decades of conflict not only took a heavy toll on the country but also upon its neighbouring Pakistan.
Pakistan, he said, suffered immense damage to its peace and security with serious consequences borne in the shape of 80,000 casualties and billions of dollars financial losses he added.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction that after immense sacrifices, Pakistan had now become able to control extremism and terrorism on its soil besides managing to host four million Afghan refugees.
He rightly suggested pooling of resources among the regional countries to address the common challenges in the interest of peace and progress “through constructive dialogue”.
He showcased Pakistan’s blessed geographic location in the region offering immense opportunities to all the countries of Central Asia to be connected with the South Asia region via Gwadar and CPEC.
He further termed Pakistan as a connecting hub between Central Asia & South Asia and beyond.
He also invited the CICA member states to consider benefiting from the trade, investment and business opportunities offered by Pakistan.
On recent floods in Pakistan, the prime minister pointed out that the country was bearing the brunt of climate change despite its less than one percent carbon emissions.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif while meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stressed the need to form a “Fast Track Mechanism” for the further development and expansion of energy, agriculture, oil & gas, connectivity and infrastructural development between the two countries.
He also highlighted the importance of promoting connectivity in the region, reiterated Pakistan’s readiness to provide access to Tajikistan to Gwadar and Karachi ports.
In a meeting with President Emomali Rahmon in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, the premier emphasised the expansion of cooperation in the field of road transport and air links.
In this connection, both leaders agreed on cementing high-level contacts, inter-parliamentary ties and technical-level meetings to further promote substantive cooperation.
The prime minister underscored the need to boost cooperation in the energy sector. It was agreed to work together for the early completion of the CASA 1000 project, which would be a harbinger of future energy corridors with Central Asia.
Astana Statement for the further transformation of CICA has been issued which strongly supported its full-fledged orientation of an organization, further socio-economic integration and connectivity.
Singing of transit trade agreement, preferential trade and ultimately FTA would be value addition for the CICA future development.
—The writer is Executive Director, the Centre for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and regional expert, Kazakhstan & CIS.
Courtesy: Pakistan Observer