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QINGDAO (China): Presi­dent Mamnoon Hussain unveiled at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) a five-point roadmap to achieve development and durable peace in the region through enhanced connectivity, shared prosperity, trade and people-to-people contacts.

Speaking at the plenary session of the summit held at the Qingdao International Conference Centre, Mr Hussain said building trust was pivotal to achieving lasting peace and stability in the region, besides helping generate economic activity and enhancing trade.

He said that development projects should not be viewed though a myopic geopolitical angle. The countries in the region should wholeheartedly support all development and connectivity initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative and its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The SCO countries, he said, should strive to alleviate poverty, support weaker economies of the region and combat terrorism and extremism, by following the “Shanghai spirit of shared development and prosperity”. The SCO Development Bank and Fund could contribute to this endeavour.

President Hussain told the summit the SCO Business Council would help promote business-to-business contacts in various sectors. The bloc led by China and Russia should explore the possibility of introducing a visa regime for businessmen.

He said that improvement in the law and order situation in Pakistan over the past few years had provided a secure environment for investment and business.

Contrary to global trends, he said, Pakistan’s economy had achieved great successes, resulting in recording this year of the country’s highest GDP growth rate in a decade.

Pakistan had been ranked as the top country in the region and the fifth in the world as a destination for private investment for infrastructure development.

President Mamnoon told the summit that peace and stability in Afghanistan was a shared concern of the SCO member states. “We believe this is only possible through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The reactivation of the SCO’s Contact Group of Afghanistan is a welcome step,” he said.

He said Pakistan had welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of ceasefire and his unconditional offer for peace talks to the Taliban.

“I am pleased to inform you that Pakistan has embarked on a bilateral Action Plan for Peace, Security and Stability with Afghanistan. We hope that these efforts will bear fruit and contribute to peace in Afghanistan,” President Hussain said.

He said the SCO occupied a unique place among international organisations established for regional security and prosperity. Within a short period it had become a platform for exemplary inter-state and people-to-people cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, regional security, connectivity and sustainable development, the president said.

He said Pakistan had been successful in meeting the Memorandum of Obligations to SCO in a timely manner.

Pakistan’s strategic location, access to the Indian Ocean and huge consumer market had further enhan­ced these opportunities.

“Our success has been bolstered by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. With participation in the Central Asian regional connectivity projects like Tapi and Casa 1000 the upward trajectory in our growth rate will continue,” he said.

The president said the government was developing nine industrial zones in different areas of Pakistan to enhance industrial productivity and provide economic stability.

He said in the past few years democratic institutions had been strengthened in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2018