Comprehensive dialogue only way to restore peace in South Asian region: Iftikhar Malik

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LAHORE : Senior Vice President (SVP) South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Iftikhar Malik condemning the Indian denial for resumption of dialogue initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated the need for a sustained, structured and result-oriented dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all differences including the core Kashmir issue as war is not a solution to problems and only “foolish” people would consider such an option.

In a statement issued here on Monday, Iftikhar Malik said it was a heartening development that foreign ministers of both countries agreed to meet on the sidelines of UN General Assembly session in New York but Indian refusal after acceptance the invitation of dialogue from Pakistan is total against the norms of diplomacy and bad omen for the prosperity of the region as no durable peace and development possible without resolving core issues between both the archrival nuclear armed countries India and Pakistan.

“Friendly relations with India on the basis of mutual confidence and cooperation are our priority but we want that India must take steps to resolve the Kashmir issue according to the UN resolutions and aspirations of Kashmiri people to provide solid ground for peace in the region,” he said.

He also called upon India to resume dialogue process with sincerity and good intention for long-lasting peace.

Iftikhar Malik said the approach to conflict resolution requires leadership that only heads of government can provide. Diplomats, well meaning though they may be, represent bureaucratic and institutional interests, rather than the national interest. They tend to be cautious, pragmatic. They can negotiate and implement incremental steps to institutionalize progress, but they cannot initiate the kind of changes that resolve long-lasting and deep-seeded disputes.

The VP SARRC Chamber said that it was the job of heads of government to build political coalitions in favor of reconciliation and to lead their nations through the inevitable setbacks and violent opposition that are likely to befall a peace process before it succeeds. Therefore, he said, India should welcome Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation letter rather than creating embarrassment.

Stressing on the need for better relations between India and Pakistan, he said the two countries must focus on improving trade relations. He said Pakistan was grappling with series of challenges and was trying its best to combat them.

Iftikhar Malik said he is still optimistic that PTI government would play constructive role to strengthen SAARC by bringing India and Pakistan close together which would be harbinger of prosperity and peace in the region.

He said he believed that more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) can be secured for SAARC if we collaborate, rather than unhealthy and non productive competition. Even trade within the SAARC countries is less than 6 percent, which is a big question mark, he deplored. He said an investment-friendly environment to promote trade in the region if appropriate steps are taken timely to remove trade barriers and streamline custom procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current USD 28 billion to over USD 100 billion.

By building common interests across borders, regional integration could enhance stability in this volatile region, which is home to 570 million poor.

Iftikhar Malik said that in the world, trade partnership is being promoted and trading blocs are being made, therefore, we also have to improve trade in the region, adding that Pakistan is hopeful of neighboring country to review its attitude for the cause of regional peace and prosperity.