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Improved communication and enhanced transport infrastructures can open new avenues for sustainable development, stability and regional harmony in Asia. And the greater collaboration, especially among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, can be achieved by reviving the historical Silk Route. This perspective was highlight of the 3-day international conference titled ‘Central Asian Business Opportunities Conference’ (CABOC) in Islamabad.
The conference gathered business and government delegates, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to share business experiences, discuss challenges and opportunities, resolve issues and build linkages for enhanced cooperation. Government of Pakistan, together with the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has jointly organised the seminar that brought together over 400 participants from 7 countries, representing 200 businesses.
“Pakistan, together with Afghanistan and Central Asia countries, has the potential to rise as world’s successful economic bloc” remarked Dr. Shimail Daud Arain, President of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “By enhancing business opportunities and reinvigorating their relations, the seven Asian countries, with a combined population of 289 million and collective GDP of US $593 billion, have an opportunity to grow as a strong Asian bloc” he believed.
Pakistan’s role is extremely important in regional growth as it has a potential to offer a great market and shortest land route to sea to the landlocked Central Asian states, opening up huge potential for regional trade. However, regrettably “Pakistan-Central Asia trade amounts to less than 1 per cent of Pakistan’s global trade which depicts both negligence and potential to enhance ties,” pointed out US Ambassador Richard Olson. He hoped the conference would offer a platform to identify and overcome obstacles in the way of regional growth. Communication and language barriers, inadequate transportation system, especially weak air linkages, were termed as the factor hindering the closer ties between Pakistan and Central Asian Republic (CAR).
Regional connectivity is a priority for government Pakistan, said Khurram Dastagir, Minister for Commerce.“Encouraging regional trade is the key to achieve greater peace, and stability in the region, and improve economy as it enhances livelihoods, reduce poverty and help promote growth” said the Minister for Commerce. He said that Pakistan’s current government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif encourage trade links to “expand regional trade, investment, and economic growth through infrastructure, transportation and communication.”
Pakistan’s export to Central Asia includes textiles, leather products, surgical instruments, food. Central Asia’s abundant natural resources and energy industry offer a great prospective for Pakistan and the whole region” said Vice President Shaukat Ahmed, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry. He believed that encouraging educational and cultural links is vital to explore the economic potential as well as to make the new generations acquainted of historic relations of Pakistan and CARs.