Dysfunctional SAARC dragging down whole region Indian dream of regional dominance keeping people poor One and a half billion people deserve peaceful, prosperous and secure future COAS Bajwa’s push for regional peace, integration supported.

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(July 10, 2019)

President Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF), President All Karachi Industrial Alliance (AKIA), Senior Vice Chairman of the Businessmen Panel of FPCCI and former provincial minister, Mian Zahid Hussain on Wednesday said ineffectiveness of SAARC is dragging down the whole region and frustrating efforts to reduce poverty.

SAARC has been suffering from the Indian dream of regional dominance and efforts to corner Pakistan while trust deficit among the member states which has a negative impact on the economic cooperation and integration, he said.

Mian Zahid Hussain said that the Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa rightly said that Pakistan wants peace and integration in the region as it does not believe in zero-sum games.

Talking to the business community, the veteran business leader said that the COAS has also pointed out that the countries cannot develop individually; it is the region which develops which indicates his desire for regional peace and prosperity. Gen. Bajwa’s inclination must be taken seriously be all the member states of SAARC to climb the ladder of success as intra-regional trade accounts for about one per cent of South Asia’s GDP, it accounts for almost 11pc of regional GDP in East Asia and the Pacific. He said that SAARC has always been dominated by political differences between India and Pakistan barring all the region from harnessing the benefits of a unified economy.

The former minister noted that tariff and non-tariff barriers by different countries has kept the level of integration low and cost of trade high which is contrary to the desire of people to have a peaceful, prosperous and secure future. Compared to countries in East Asia, the average level of trade costs in South Asia is 20 percent higher; cost of trade between some South Asian economies is higher than the same country’s trading costs with Brazil. Interdependency through enhanced trade is needed to ensure long period of peace in which both sides can look forward to cooperating with each other making the region an ‘area of peace’ and the centre for world business. SAARC has the potential to transform the South Asia, therefore, mutual mistrust and non-cooperation should not be allowed to undermine its potential, he demanded.

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