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ECO train, an important regional connectivity project: Pakistan PM

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan welcoming the re-launching of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) cargo train has termed it an important regional connectivity project.

Speaking at the 14th ECO summit held virtually on Thursday, he said the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad commercial cargo train and proposed Uzbekistan-Afghanistan- Pakistan railway links are important regional connectivity projects, in addition, linking China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Afghanistan and beyond is vital.

“We must develop an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and serve as a pathway for trade between the major economies to our East and West, North and South,” he added.

Prime Minister in his views said we must implement the cross-border projects already agreed among ECO members, including TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA 1000.

“Establishing an ECO Investment Agency and organizing an annual ECO Investment Fair where investment-ready projects could be presented to ECO and global investors are ideas that can be explored,” noted Imran Khan.

He said in the Vision 2025, the ECO members have set themselves an ambitious agenda of enhanced collaboration – in Trade, Energy, Tourism, Agriculture and Industrial Growth. We should undertake a mid-term review of the progress made so far, accelerate the pace of implementation, and deepen the scope of cooperation.

He added should engage in dialogues with other regional and international organizations. We could emulate some of the successful models of cooperation in the EU, ASEAN and the African Union.

Appreciating the efforts of ECO Secretary General Hadi Soleimanpour to advance the goals of the organization, he said: Pakistan is determined to advance the institutional goals of ECO members and energize this economic organization as a dynamic organization for regional cooperation.

The Prime Minister said the ECO members states are severely affected by the health, economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 pandemic with over 150 million people hit by the virus and over 2.5 million lost their lives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We must ensure that our peoples secure the earliest possible access to vaccines being produced, but on an affordable and equitable basis. The vaccine must be declared a “global public good.” Because, actually, no one will be safe from the virus unless everyone is safe,” said the Prime Minister.

He added apart from its health and economic consequences, the COVID crisis has exacerbated the manifestations of religious discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world.

“We have witnessed this in our immediate neighbourhood. The COVID lockdowns have enabled the suppression of people in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination,” added Imran Khan.

He said for all the leadership, I would want to point this out it is essential to reject any attempt to link Islam with terrorism. “To link Islam with terrorism is the biggest injustice which is being done to Muslims in the world,” noted the Prime Minister.

Premier said: similarly, we must oppose attempts where ‘freedom of expression’ is used to cause pain to Muslims by denigrating our Holy Prophet (PBUH).

He added peace in Afghanistan is crucial to the success of such physical integration in ECO region. I hope that the successful culmination of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations will lead to durable peace and security in Afghanistan.

He viewed in advancing our common objectives, we must take full advantage of our geographical location, economic assets, and political relationships. “Regional connectivity and integration have been proven to be essential for rapid growth and development. Enhanced physical infrastructure will generate economic activity, trade, employment, mobility and cross-border exchanges,” said Imran Khan.

He said studies indicate that our mutual trade, which is just 8% of our total trade; this could be expanded ten-fold. “Enhanced transport links will help. But, we should promote conscious measures for trade promotion; simplify border procedures; establish intra-regional institutional linkages; reinforce existing regional mechanisms like ECO Trade Development Bank; operationalize ECO Trade Agreement; and develop new initiatives like the Clearing Union,” he said.

Imran Khan was of the view that to remain competitive, we must promote knowledge-based economies; and this needs we enhance expenditures on research and development; and focus on rapid digitalization especially extension of broadband to all parts of our countries.

He added for Pakistan, the vision of ECO’s regional economic integration is an essential component of a strategy to transform the tensions of geo-politics into the dividends of geo-economics.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA


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