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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The importance of ECO summit for Pakistan

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Today was the first anniversary of Mumtaz Qadri, the government announced a public holiday for the Twin cities – Islamabad and Rawalpindi on Wednesday, to ensure there was no disruption to the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Islamabad.

Themes of Conference

This will be the 13th summit of ECO, where it is expected that the leaders will continue working on the connectivity of the region through expansion of trade, transport, energy and economic relations. The inauguration was done by Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, who gave a video message, welcoming the participants.

The theme of the summit is ‘Connectivity for Regional Prosperity’ and taking place after a five-year gap, which also marks the 25th anniversary of the expansion bloc established in 1985.

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Leaders have come from around the region, heads of government/state of eight of the 10 countries, including the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the deputy prime minister from Uzbekistan.

While, Afghanistan has not sent any high level representation, Hazrat Omar Zakhiwal, Afghanistan Ambassador to Islamabad will be there, and official sources believe this participation helps to lessen the hostilities between the two countries.

India has sent no-one, still protesting against the alleged Pakistani involvement in the Uri attack. China has been invited as a special guest.

Importance of summit for Pakistan

The summit was important for Pakistan, given the collapse of the SAARC meeting last year, where due to Indian intransigence, after Uri attack, the meeting that was due to be held in Pakistan was canceled.  Participation by regional countries in this summit gives Pakistan another opportunity to show that it is not internationally isolated as India has asserted.

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The arrival of Hassan Rouhani, was particularly welcome because of the diplomatic slip-up that occurred last year, Kulbashan Yadev, an Indian spy living in Iran, was captured in March 2016, created headlines during President Rouhani’s visit to the country.

Prime Minister of Pakistan welcomed and told Yesui Zhang, Vice Foreign Minister of China, regarding plans for improving connectivity of ECO region are, “convergent with China’s One-Belt-One-Road and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative.”

On eve of the summit, Nawaz Sharif said: “I have firm conviction that expanded connectivity, enhanced trade and deeper economic cooperation would transform our region into a bastion of progress, prosperity and peace… Pakistan would be more than happy to provide ECO states connectivity through its ports,” in a video message.

Pre-summit meetings in Islamabad have already been taking place since 26 February, and a draft ‘Islamabad declaration’ already agreed.

ECO Vision 2025

An ECO Vision 2025 policy has been adopted by the Council of Ministers which showcase the priorities of the organization for the next eight years.

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The 2025 Vision lays down three long-term priorities, development of transport and communication infrastructure, improving conditions for trade and investment; and interlinking of the region’s energy resources.

Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs, while stressing cooperation said, “Global peace, stability and prosperity cannot be achieved in silos in the inter-connected world of today.” In addition, he pointed out that the long term prospects of ECO are dependent on political will of all the member states and on finding a common ground to work together.

The summit also offers opportunities for interesting discussions on other matters such as terrorism. A plight that is affecting not only Pakistan and Afghanistan but also Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which is a serious threat for Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian states and the ETIM which threatens China.