Speaking at the 12th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on Thursday, President Asif Ali Zardari expressed Pakistan’s wish to become its full member; for it fully subscribed to the ideals and values of the organisation and wanted to further strengthen relations with its members. The SCO, he pointed out, has evolved ‘from a security organisation to a broad-based regional arrangement and become a powerful vehicle for the promotion of regional cooperation and economic integration’. Its full membership would enable Pakistan to work more closely together with other members in advancing its agenda of peace, security and development. At present Pakistan holds an observer status at the SCO. Pakistan’s membership of the SCO, while adding weight to its role, would make it easier for us to reduce reliance on the US and the West as well as help, in a broader sense, check their uncalled-for interference in the region.
Mr Zardari also announced that Islamabad would hold an international conference on narcotics for better coordination with other countries in getting rid of the menace of drugs. He observed that checking the proliferation of narcotics would go a long way towards choking funds for militants, helping in the process fight insurgency and pave the way for development in the region. The President talked of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the challenges they have posed for Pakistan as well as the region.
Mr Zardari also availed the opportunity to interact with leaders of some other countries, who had assembled there on the occasion. With Chinese President Hu Jintao and Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmedinejad, he has had most fruitful discussions. In his meeting with the former, he discussed the possibility of greater investment in the energy infrastructure from the all-weather friend to make it possible for us to tackle the crisis of loadshedding. He also reaffirmed making all-out efforts to enhance bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2015 from the last year’s $10.6 billion. In addition to the three MoUs Pakistan had signed on Wednesday for building roads and flats and establishment of an economic zone in Sindh, one more MoU was inked for cooperation in science, technology and space sciences. To his Iranian counterpart, President Zardari held out the assurance that Pakistan’s territory would not be allowed to be used against his country. Another outcome was the pledge to quicken the execution of the gas pipeline project and purchase of electricity from Iran. It is evident that the energy crisis rivals only the backbreaking inflation in causing suffering to the people of Pakistan and its solution holds the key to putting its economy back on the rails. There must be no letup in the follow-up of these discussions so that Pakistan could get over the crisis as early as possible.