Economics key to Indo-Pak peace

Himalayan News Service

Himachal Pradesh, July 5

India and Pakistan must create a regional economic bloc to bring peace in the region and gain a larger stake in world markets, a visiting Pakistani official has said. “We must unite, for peace and for prosperity,” said Salman Siddique, finance secretary of Pakistan’s Punjab province, who is part of a 14-member Pakistani team that is here to play a two-day long golf match against a local team. The match is being played on Sunday and Monday on the greens of Naldehra, a nine-hole course in the tiny resort town 22 km from the Himachal Pradesh capital of Shimla.

“If we are able to push economic ties, everything else will fall in place,” felt Siddique, “Poverty is as important to you (India) as it is to us. The people of the two countries need good governance. Once the economic juggernaut gets rolling between India and Pakistan, everything else will fall in place.” Among Siddique’s wish list are free movement of labour and capital between the countries, tariff-free trade, a common currency and establishing trade promotion bodies. “We have many strengths. If we come together, we can do wonders, we have competitive advantages that we must exploit,” he said, “I believe that unless we have a regional bloc led by India and Pakistan, and joined by Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, we cannot push our interests in world economic forums.”

Siddique said he is especially enthused about economic cooperation with India with eminent economist Manmohan Singh as prime minister. “Manmohan Singh is renowned for good economic policies and we are very optimistic that lots of great development and progress on the economic front will happen during his tenure.” Siddique said he is clear that economic cooperation is the key to progress in the India-Pakistan peace process. “If we want peace, we must build economic bridges and show our people how peace betters their life. I believe in five years we will either create a strong regional bloc or we’ll be booted out of world markets and have no say,” Siddique maintained.