ISLAMABAD: As many as three billion people in the region will benefit if Pakistan, China and Iran form an economic bloc, said Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Prof Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday.

Speaking at an international conference hosted by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) titled ‘Pakistan-China-Iran: A Trident of Regional Connectivity’, the minister said the age of geopolitics is over and the time has come for Pakistan to focus on geo-economics and look for regional options.

He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will bring regional connectivity and that Pakistan is looking forward to Iran developing new infrastructure in the region.

“Pakistan and Iran need to learn from China’s approach of getting benefit from creating peace in the region. I suggest that the three countries create a community of shared prosperity in the region,” the minister said.

A senior expert at Tehran’s Political and International Studies, Ambassador Alireza Bikdeli suggested Iran and Pakistan should try to take maximum benefit from their geographical proximity and keep common development plans away from securitisation.

Vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, Beijing Dr Rong Ying said the three countries should find the effective means to avert any possibility of confrontation through consensus.

Head of the Centre for International Research and Education, Tehran, Dr Hadi Soleimanpour said China needs to help Iran and Pakistan with an integrated and comprehensive plan.

ISSI Chairman Ambassador Khalid Mahmood said that the Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC offer a lot of opportunities for the three countries. He claimed that the stage is set for them to achieve new milestones in economy.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2017

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