South Asia peace, prosperity need people-to-people contact
NEW DELHI (Pajhwok): The three-day South Asia Economic Conclave (SAEC) concluded in New Delhi on Wednesday, with the participants from all the eight SAARC countries insisting on libralisation of visa regimes for enhanced intra-regional connectivity.
Home to 1.6 billion people and sharing a common history, culture and tradition, South Asia is considered among the least integrated regional clubbing in the world.
SAARC has 40 percent of the world’s poor with many of the member countries in the region suffer from extreme forms of social exclusion and huge infrastructure gaps, and the larger countries are experiencing increases in inequality.
Habiba Sadeqi, Afghanistan Female Entrepreneurs Association head, speaking at the conclave said, Afghanistan only enjoyed regular people-to-people and trade interactions with Pakistan and India, but not with other countries of the region.
"Visa barriers are a major issue in SAARC that’s why we can’t move freely between these countries,” she said, adding Afghanistan’s products also could not be reached other SAARC member states except India and Pakistan.
Other participants suggested that tourism between countries and people of the region should be promoted and facilitated, visa regimes should be relaxed for businessmen and entrepreneurs, there should be a joint fund for young entrepreneurs of member countries, and youth exchange programs should be promoted.
“Quality higher education is the key answer to uplifting the people of the region. There are fewer people who have access to education in South Asia and there is a need for research collaboration among universities in the region,” said Dr. Kavita Sharma, president of the South Asia University (SAU).
The conclave has tried to bring together people from various sectors of the eight South Asian countries to enhance cooperation, integration and people-to-people contact in order to uplift the region by drawing lessons from successful regional groupings like the EU, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The South Asia economic conclave – attended by government officials, business leaders, policy makers civil society and media leaders of the region in New Delhi -- has been cited to stimulate informed dialogue between the private sector and government to promote regional trade and investment, which would in turn help catalyze higher growth and new job opportunities for all countries in South Asia.
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