On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the only way forward for the subcontinent is through dialogue to address existing issues.
“I approached our neighbour India immediately upon coming to power and clarified to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the way forward for the subcontinent is through dialogue to address our differences.
“I didn’t succeed, but I’m confident the sentiment would inevitably prevail. Improving trade ties is the only way that the subcontinent can counter poverty. Let us live as civilised neighbours, as the people of Europe live.”
At the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference in Colombo, which aimed to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries, the Prime Minister shared her views.
“Germany and France have clashed several times, but it is unlikely for them today to have a war because, because of trade, they are so interlinked. Similarly, my vision for the subcontinent is that our differences are resolved, “He said, adding that the Kashmir issue was the region’s only dispute.
“All we want is for the Kashmir dispute to be resolved according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions and this can only be achieved through dialogue.”
A conflict between two nations just causes further conflict, the prime minister said. “Through consultation and not through war, we need to overcome our differences. Imagine the potential inside the subcontinent for trade, “He added that the only thing that prevented the country from realising this potential was the inability, through negotiation, to overcome differences.
He expressed the hope that Pakistan could play its part in reducing rising US-China tensions as well. He said, “We would much rather be a country that brings other nations and humanity together,”
Alleviation of poverty
PM Imran started his address by claiming that his motive behind entering politics was to alleviate poverty. I entered politics twenty-five years ago because I felt that setting up a welfare state was the best way to alleviate poverty in our country,”Twenty five years ago, I entered politics because I felt that the best way to reduce poverty in our country was to setup a welfare state,”
He said that during his meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, the two discussed how to lower the rising cost of food products. Earlier today, the premier called on the President of Sri Lanka to hold a one-on-one meeting in Colombo at the Presidential Secretariat.
“He told me how he went to China and visited various farms where the gap between the wholesale and the retail [market] had been reduced.”
In Pakistan, he said, there is a big difference between these two, adding that he will take the Sri Lankan president’s input on board.
“The other way we are able to minimise poverty is through investment and the promotion of business profitability. In Pakistan, we have absolutely changed our policies, “He said, adding that foreign investment had been impeded by government policies in the past.
PM Imran said the whole idea was to create wealth to uplift the underprivileged, adding that the country’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business index had improved. “This is what China did.”
The prime minister also touched on the ties between the two countries, saying that in terms of tourism, Pakistan could benefit the most from Sri Lanka.
“Compared to us, you have a much more mature tourism industry. Pakistan has tremendous tourism potential, but so far, this potential has been restricted to local tourism, not international tourism.”
PM Imran urged the Sri Lankan business community once again to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project at the end of his speech. “It gives you the chance to link to Uzbekistan and the Central Asian States from Gwadar.
“We have these special economic zones that give companies incentives to set up industries there. This is the connectivity that Pakistan provides. So, I’m inviting Sri Lankan companies, businessmen and investors to come over to Pakistan.”
Economic diplomacy is the priority
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking at the meeting, said that the two countries would look at how to strengthen bilateral relations.
“Our economic indicators were pointing in the wrong direction when Imran Khan took charge of the government. [But] we have achieved, to a large extent, economic stability within two and a half years, “He said, adding that the focus had now shifted towards growth.
In the Ease of Doing Business list, Pakistan has moved up a number of places and the government is also encouraging investment, he said. He said, “Our focus has shifted from geo-politics to geo-economics,”
He added that the goal was to make Pakistan, while concentrating on growth and connectivity, a hub of economic activity. Speaking to the conference participants, he claimed that the Foreign Office was committed to supporting and facilitating Sri Lankan businessmen.
“Economic diplomacy is our priority. You are welcome to come to Pakistan and see how hospitable it is going to be “And he concluded.
Dawood is calling on the business community to
The conference was aimed at bringing the business communities of the two countries together to discuss new ideas and opportunities for growing trade and investment, said Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, our fellow businessmen, we have come here not to fear the future, but to shape it,”Fellow business people, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, we have come here not to fear the future but to shape it,”
The advisor maintained that it is not “good enough” and does not balance the relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka although there is trade between the two nations.
Pakistan has made a drastic economic turnaround and is experiencing industrial growth, he said. “So take advantage of this,” he told the Sri Lankan business community in an appeal.
“We are at a time when our willingness to alter economic ties is unrivalled. The present degree of economic ties must not be acknowledged and future partnerships must be imagined, “And he said.