Stressing upon the importance of a "high-level" dialogue to resolve bilateral issues with India, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has reiterated the need of a peaceful resolution to all disputes through a 'sustained and productive dialogue', which he said would bear fruit.
Zardari's statement was read out during a seminar, 'In Pursuit of Shared Destiny in the Sub-continent', organised by South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) on the eve of Pakistan's 65th Independence Day here on Monday.
"The present democratic government and the people of Pakistan wish to see peace and cooperation flourish in the subcontinent. I hope endeavours by SAFMA will encourage taking 'bold steps' to make South Asia an economic power house, to benefit its over a billion people. The two countries need durable peace and security to focus on social and economic development of their population," he added.
Zardari's statement assumed significance in political circles of the sub-continent since a high-level political dialogue between the two countries has not held after Mumbai terror attacks while hardliners here were not in favour of resumption of talks with India. Political analysts here believed that Pakistan was ready to take 'bold steps' to fetch its pie of projected economic upsurge in South Asia by engaging India in economic cooperation in certain identified areas.
SAFMA had been advocating 'liberal' visa regime in the Sub-continent to encourage people-to-people contact for long lasting peace and understanding.
"It's high time to extend same visa facilities to media persons, engineers, doctors and writers that were already extended to businessmen. Let possibilities be explored to help South Asia emerge as a tourism union. This will strengthen social, economic and political bond amongst the people of this region," Imtiaz Alam, SAFMA's secretary general said. "Why the rulers fear relaxing visa regime? Why they fear people interacting across borders. Let the governments change their mindset and respect public perception on giving peace a chance," Alam said.
The issue of climate change, too, would emerge as the basis for Pakistan and India to work closely to enter into new areas of cooperation, the experts believed. Renowned economist Akmal Hussain, while quoting reports of intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in his address, said South Asia with its heavy reliance on monsoons, its critical dependence on agriculture and persistent mass poverty was among the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change.
"The frequency of intense rainfall events has increased, causing floods and landslides in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, northeast India and Sri Lanka, in the last decade. Consecutive droughts in 1999 and 2000, in Pakistan and northwest India adversely affected agriculture growth and the drought of 2002 in Orissa caused crop failures, which affected 11 million people," he said.
"Managing population dislocation, natural disasters, instability of water supply and food shortages resulting from climate change, will require a high degree of interstate cooperation in South Asia. The integrated ecology of South Asia, its mountains, rivers, forests and top soils constitute the basis of sustaining its economy and social life. Cooperation, not conflict, is the key to building a better future for the Indian subcontinent," he said.
The speakers from Pakistan included Ayesha Jalal, historian, Hassan Askari Rizvi, political analyst while Indian delegates including Seema Mustafa and Pamela Philipose, president, South Asian Women in Media also spoke.