Prime Minister of Pakistan Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali's statement at the 12th SAARC Summit in Islamabad on January 4, 2004
"Your Excellencies the Heads of state and Government of SAARC Members,
Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and a special privilege for me to welcome you all to Islamabad for the 12th SAARC Summit.
The presence of a galaxy of eminent leaders from the sister states of South Asia is a source of great joy for the people of Pakistan.
We hope you will have a comfortable stay in Islamabad and carry with you pleasant memories of a fruitful stay.
May I at the outset pay a tribute to prime Minister His Excellency Surya Bahadur Thapa for the outstanding manner in which Nepal has guided SAARC during the past two years.
I would also like to thank our Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. QAMA Rahim and his dedicated staff for their important contribution to the preparatory work of the Summit.
Excellencies, we are gathered here to review the progress in SAARC and the prospects for further intensifying regional cooperation in South Asia.
I am confident that our deliberations would be productive and provide a fresh impetus to invigorating SAARC.
Regional cooperation is a function of growing interdependence in a fast globalising world.
Eighteen years ago the states of South Asia embarked on an enterprise for peace and development by founding SAARC.
The enlightened vision of the Charter exalted the high ideals of peace, stability, amity, good neighbourly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation in South Asia.
The Charter also committed sovereign and equal nations of South Asia to base this regional enterprise on respect for the recognized principles of inter-state conduct as contained in the UN Charter.
The objectives set forth in the SAARC Charter centred on the welfare of the peoples of South Asia; improvement of their quality of life; accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development.
It is in this context, that we must assess SAARCís accomplishments. SAARC undoubtedly has to its credit some notable achievement. However, the potential and promise of SAARC is nowhere near realization.
South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the humanity, is out of step with other regions of the world, which were able to transcend their differences and disputes and embark on a steady course to economic growth and development.
Excellencies, our region has immense resources. Geographical affinities, historical ties, rich cultural heritage, a large pool of talented and hard working people. These indeed are, our great assets. By building the right synergy in our national endeavours and regional plans, we could put our region on the path to economic development.
Excellencies, as Pakistan assumes the Chairmanship of SAARC after an interval of almost sixteen years, we would like this Summit to clearly delineate a road map for taking SAARC forward.
Excellencies, globalization presents us with challenges and opportunities. On the one end is the danger of marginalisation, whereas on the other is the prospect of joining the developed regions that are already on the fast track to progress and prosperity.
It is imperative that we develop positive links with the globalized world, as we depend an broaden cooperation in South Asia.
This calls for an equal emphasis on strengthening of SAARC; raising its international profile; and building its external interface of trans-regional cooperation.
In fact, several of our members are building strong linkages with other regional enterprises. SAARC must be receptive to these considerations and in fact be enabled to leverage the economic complementarities of the region of South, central and East Asia.
Excellencies, Pakistan favours greater regional economic cooperation. A good beginning has been made in this direction through the exchanges of tariff concessions in the four rounds of trade negotiations under SAPTA. Finalization of the Framework Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is a welcome development.
To enable these arrangements to deliver real dividends and to create a win-win for all, a number of complementary steps are required.
Strengthening of the existing transportation and communication links across the region, institution of trade facilitation measures, including harmonization of customs rules and procedures, elimination of non-tariff barriers are a few steps that need our immediate attention.
Greater economic integration is inextricably linked to the creation of requisite political climate of peace and stability.
The ideas of establishing a South Asia Economic Union or a monetary union or of Schengen repeat in South Asia, would remain distant dreams, unless we are able to address the political environment in our region in a just and realistic manner.
It is the stark reality of political differences and disputes that has held back prospects of real economic cooperation in South Asia.
Excellencies, we subscribe to the vision of robust multidimensional cooperation in South Asia. But, we must realize that this vision could only be transformed into reality, if we are able to overcome our differences and disputes and create a climate of mutual trust and confidence.
Closer cooperation in the area of finance and banking is essential to consolidate and further promote economic and commercial cooperation in the region.
The mechanism of SAARCFINANCE consisting of the Governors of the Central Banks of the Member States provides a useful avenue to improve macro-economic policy coordination. This is certainly an area that requires close attention.
SAARC must move forward expeditiously towards the establishment of a South Asia Development Bank, which could underwrite important region-oriented mega-projects of mutual benefit to SAARC members.
It is important to find ways and means to augment the capacity of SAARC to enable it to serve as catalyst in the economic and social development of our region.
SAARCís developmental arm, the South Asian Development Funds has been hamstrung by paucity of resources. It must be enable to lead a region wide developmental effort.
We must also explore cooperation with international development institutions. We must also encourage a move towards project cooperation under SAARC.
Closer public-private sector collaboration is a critical element and an essential tool for achieving our developing objectives.
Excellencies, the economic development of South Asia is contingent upon assured and inexpensive availability of energy.
Harnessing regionís indigenous energy production potential and meeting the energy demand through trans-regional oil and gas pipelines should become the subject of close consideration of SAARC member states.
Pakistan favours the commissioning of a study on creating a South Asian Energy Ring, encompassing hydro and thermal capacities as well as trans-regional oil and gas pipelines.
Pakistan for its part, as South Asiaís window to Central and West Asia, is ready to extend its fullest cooperation, in this regard.
Excellencies, developing greater regional cooperation to alleviate poverty remains a common challenge. It is indeed an urgent imperative for all governments.
We applaud the considerable work done by the SAARC three- tier mechanism on Poverty alleviation. This mechanism provides a useful forum to national governments for in-depth consultations and sharing of regional experiences.
Poverty is a multi-dimensional problem requiring multi- pronged strategies and solutions at the national as well as regional level.
We also appreciate the considerable work on poverty alleviation undertaken by the Independent Commission on this subject.
The SAARC Secretariat has also done commendable work in compiling SAARC Regional Poverty Profiles in collaboration with the United Nations.
A major contribution of this Summit would be the approval of the Poverty Alleviation Plan of Action prepared by the Ministers of finance of the SAARC member states.
Excellencies, the focus of SAARC endeavours should be the welfare of the peoples.
Dividends of SAARC must enrich the daily lives of our peoples.
The finalization of the SAARC Social Charter is a major landmark in our endeavours to give content and meaning to a people centered approach to economic growth and development.
It would go a long way in assuring respect for human dignity and towards protecting the interests of vulnerable groups particularly women and children.
We must set SAARC Development goals for poverty alleviation, health, education and environment.
Excellencies, the SAARC functional mechanisms and structures need to be further strengthened. We must enable these mechanisms to play an important role in further broadening of cooperation in specialized fields.
We must make SAARC a truly multi-dimensional enterprise. In setting our priorities we must give special attention to rural development, expanding our agricultural resource base, develop action plans to combat communicable diseases; promoting greater collaboration in the health sector; eliminating illiteracy; building our scientific and technological capacities and further development of information and communication technologies.
We must endeavour to develop knowledge-based societies in South Asia. SAARC must facilitate Networking of Centres of higher learning and Skill Development Institutes (SDIs) across South Asia.
We welcome the finalization of the Additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on Combating Terrorism. It is a further manifestation of our determination to remove the scourge of terrorism from our region.
Excellencies, I am confident that this Summit would provide a fresh impetus to reinvigorating regional cooperation in South Asia.
We can together utilize the immense resources of our region to make it a veritable centre of economic growth in Asia. Pakistan for its part will spare no effort to translate the vision of the SAARC Charter into a reality. In conclusion, I would again like to extend to you a hearty welcome. I wish you a comfortable and pleasant stay. I wish the Conference every success. Thank You"