ECONOMY

 

ECONOMIC COOPERATION IN ASIA

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Asia is a vast continent with immense resources

 

 

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

 Apr 18 - 24, 2005
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Islamabad Declaration on economic cooperation in Asia at the end of two-day fourth ministerial conference of Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) reflects the single point agenda of the Asian countries to promote peace and prosperity by collective utilization of the opportunities of globalization in Asia.

The four-page document emphasizing the destiny of the people of Asia, as of the world is inextricably linked, was the outcome of the efforts of the ministers and other heads of delegation from 26 member countries of the ADC.

It said that Asia is a vast continent with immense resources and the ACD is determined to build up its rich civilization and utilize the economic complementarities in its common pursuit for ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for Asia and the world.

The inaugural session of the conference was addressed by the visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The ACD was the brainchild of Thailand government which mooted the idea in 2002. Its second meeting was also held in Thailand. The third conference was held in China in June 2004, where it was decided that the 4th meeting will be held in Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri while elaborating the progress on the ACD front said that Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation were accepted as members of the ACD at the meeting he had chaired.

The meeting also agreed to adopt the Islamabad initiative. He said the Islamabad Declaration recognized that Asia economies face common challenges in terms of energy scarcity, poverty and financial instability, and agreed to promote ways and means to overcome these challenges through cooperation and sharing of resources.

However, he said, in future the criteria for admission into the ACD would be changed and the club would contemplate as to what the new criteria should be as requests from many countries have flooded in for admission. "Pakistan is a founding member for the ACD which is now a club with responding success. "We are now contemplating how to develop its infrastructure and which regions should be represented. We have to devise a method before admitting more members," he said explaining future ACD program.

Kasuri said the outcome of the 4th ACD ministerial meeting Islamabad Declaration and the Islamabad Initiative would strengthen the foundation of movement towards the vision of common Greater Asia neighborhood or Asian Community. "It agreed that Asia must consist of peaceful societies cooperating with each other in harmony in diverse fields for their common good, progress, prosperity and happiness of their peoples," Kasuri read from a prepared statement.

In his keynote address to the ACD Premier, Mr. Wen Jiabao has reiterated China's sincere adherence to the path of peaceful development. He has assured trustworthiness of China and as a reliable partner of its Asia counterparts. He emphatically dispelled the impression that strong and more developed China will pose any threat to other countries. Mr. Wen stressed on multidimensional cooperation to achieve win-win results, as China believes that all outstanding issues need to be handled through consultation and accommodation. Mr. Wen focused China's role as "responsible country in fending off the Asia financial crisis combating SARS epidemic and relief to tsunami victims in the Indian Ocean.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his inaugural address dilated upon Pakistan's unique position to play pivotal role for enhanced economic interaction in Asia. "Pakistan is located at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia and South East Asia and as a member of SAARC and ECO, the Islamic Republic offers the shortest land route to the sea for land locked Central Asia and Western China for exports from Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar."

 

 

The Prime Minister stressed on 11 points strategy focuses on promotion of required synergies to achieve the partnership; ACD should promote trade not aid strategy, goals of the ACD should Free Trade Agreement (FTA); encouragement of investment in an enabling environment; ensuring collective program and infrastructure reforms; creation of corridors for multi-lateral cooperation in energy, trade, transportation and tourism; promotion of public private partnership; encouragement of institutionalized cooperation; help each other in ensuring sustainable development of social harmony by addressing inequalities; and encouragement of scientific research and utilization of technologies and creation of knowledge-based society.

The Prime Minister emphasized that Pakistan wants peaceful and amicable solution of all outstanding issues with India including Kashmir. Pakistan is a country of opportunities and a valuable partner to realize the Asia miracles ACD is a critical forum to realize the goals of progressive, prosperous, peaceful and stable Asia continent.

ACD a Thai initiative is aimed to exchange views and adopt a common strategy to achieve long-term peace and development, consolidate the political will among Asian governments and build an Asian bloc on the lines of EU through mutual understanding on the basis of sovereign equality. Foreign Ministers of 26 member countries including Pakistan attended the 4th ACD Ministerial Conference. India was represented by its State Minister.

ACD covers 18 areas of cooperation which include energy, security, poverty alleviation, agriculture, transport linkages, biotechnology, E-Commerce, infrastructure fund, E-Education, Asian Institute of Standards. SMEs cooperation, IT development, science and technology, tourism, working group on financial cooperation, human resource development and road safety. Pakistan is a prime mover of "Asian Institute of Standards" and cover in agriculture with China and Kazakhstan and tourism along with Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Asian undoubtedly needs greater cooperation in the emerging unpredictable scenario. In Asian perspective, leading statesmen such as former prime ministers Dr. Mahathir Muhammad of Malaysia and Mr. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore are the role models that have helped their respective countries to achieve the higher goals. The Asian countries cannot sit back to simple enjoy the heritage left by the predecessors.

Asia a continent of geographical and cultural diversity but its rich natural resources can be effectively utilized by developing a consensus to use these resources productively for the benefit of the people of Asia.