Roundtable Discussion On ” South Asia: Peaceful Coexistence Through Economic Cooperation”
September 27, 2022
To promote the idea of peace and explore new avenues of cooperation in the South Asian region, the India Study Centre (ISC) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organised a roundtable discussion titled “South Asia: Peaceful Coexistence Through Economic Cooperation” on September 27, 2022. Ambassador Riaz Mohammad Khan was the keynote speaker at the event whereas; Mr Hussnain Shah, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), Mr. Saddam Hussein, PIDE, Islamabad and Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor, Assistant Director (Research), PIPS, Islamabad participated as discussants. Mr. Muhammad Ali Baig, Research Associate (ISC) and Syed Kasim Masood, Research Associate (ISC) also expressed their views and ideas during the discussion.
In his introductory remarks, Director ISC, Dr. Arshad Ali said that India being the largest country by size, economy, and military power has undermined regional integration as it acts as a hegemon in the region. Non-traditional security threats are looming over south Asia like climate change, food and water security. As these issues are transnational, therefore, there is a need to adopt a cohesive regional approach to tackle with them.
While welcoming the guests, the Director General ISSI Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that this event was just the beginning of a series of events that the ISC at ISSI will hold on this subject.
The event’s keynote speaker, Ambassador Riaz Mohammad Khan, expressed his firm belief that cooperation among neighbouring countries is always beneficial. Unfortunately, in South Asia, the relationship between India and Pakistan has hindered regional cooperation. Kashmir is the major issue between the two countries. The situation today is the worst possible as Modi removes Pakistan from any talk on Kashmir. Nonetheless, challenges like climate change require the two countries along with other regional countries to work in close collaboration for the betterment of common people of this region.
During the course of the roundtable discussion, numerous ideas were floated where India and Pakistan could cooperate to bring some semblance of normalcy to their relationship. It was suggested that religious tourism could be one option to increase people-to-people contact. In the field of agriculture, it was said that importing agricultural technology and then reverse engineering would be helpful for Pakistan. On the lines of Motor Vehicles agreement between Bangladesh and Bhutan, much economic activity can be generated if India and Pakistan may also reach such an understanding.
The role of SAARC in regional integration was also discussed at length. It was observed with great disappointment that due to the uneasy relationship between India and Pakistan, SAARC too has been rendered dysfunctional. The untapped potential of emission-reducing equipment and electric vehicles was also highlighted. It was pointed out that importing spices from India instead of other countries would help Pakistan and its weak economy.
With so many ideas and avenues of cooperation emerging not only between India and Pakistan but the region as a whole, the meeting came to an end. It was once again reiterated that further discussion will be held to dig deeper into these ideas and chalk out the way forward for regional economic cooperation.