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Connectivity, Economic Integration Shared Prosperity of So. Asia and Central Asia: Islamabad Think Tank IPRI

DESPARDES — Regional connectivity is essential for promoting economic integration of South Asian countries and with Central Asian countries for common benefits.

Pakistan could play central role in realizing this potential, as “Pakistan has important geo- strategic location to prove itself as a gateway for two energy rich regions including the Middle East and Central Asia,” says President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Vice Admiral (R) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique.

The head of IPRI also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia — one of its closest allies in the region and central to “look westward-southwestward” policy.

He said that Pakistan could also offer concept of shared prosperity to all regional countries for participating in the game-changer project –the Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC), — adding that this project would not only promote regional connectivity but would also go beyond it.

He said that connecting landlocked Central Asian Countries with the region was also a big challenge as well as an opportunity, adding that creating such links would help exploit the untapped energy resources of the region.

He highlighted the importance of speeding up work on Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project to overcome the energy challenges of the region and promote the concept of shared prosperity.

Mr. Saddique said that Gwadar port was a good opportunity for connecting the Central Asian States with the global market, while the port would also enhance the linkage between regional countries with potential markets of the world.

The former envoy highlighted that Pakistan was also center of gravity in global geo-economic theater because of its geo-strategic location, with two important sea ports Gwadar and Karachi.

“We can play an important role to connect the region with big economies of the world including European Union and African regions for increasing the trade linkages.”

The former ambassador also highlighted the role of neighboring brotherly country, Iran saying it owned the energy neck of world in the gulf region i.e the Strait of Hormuz, while it was also bordering the energy-rich Caspian Sea.

Discussing the importance of Pakistan-Iran cooperation in oil and gas sectors, he said the long-delayed (pending) project of Pakistan and Iran gas pipeline would cater to the energy requirements of Pakistan.

He said that both of the countries had already discussed matters related to bilateral trade and softening of boarders for trade liberalization in future.

Replying to a question about $8 billion Saudi investment in Oil refinery in Gwadar, Balochistan, Mr. Saddique said that it would benefit the country and help in self-sufficiency in petrochemical sector.

Currently Pakistan was importing 80,000 barrel refined oil from Saudi Arabia, which could be refined inside the country once the Oil Refinery in Gwadar becomes functional, he said.

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According to him, Pakistan and Saudi Arab had been engaged in negotiations to develop a roadmap for future cooperation for enhancing trade in petrochemical sector and increasing quota for Pakistani labors in the kingdom, which he said would create employment opportunities.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arab had close bilateral relations, rooted in history while huge Pakistan labor force was working in Saudi Arab, sending valuable remittances to their native country.”

With input from APP news agency and Irshad Salim in Islamabad