Lahore: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf Tuesday called for reconciliation and connectivity in South Asia, saying countries in the region should try to settle political and economic issues with an open mind.
"Conflict over disputes must give way to reconciliation, connectivity, openness and regional cooperation. The collective well-being of people of South Asia cannot be left at the mercy of any one country," Ashraf said in his address at the annual conference of the South Asian Free Media Association here tonight.
"We need to resolve all political and economic issues with an open mind and sincerity of purpose," he told a gathering of journalists and civil society activists from SAARC countries.
Pakistan attaches "great importance" to SAARC and is committed to the grouping`s principles and objectives, he said.
"Pakistan supports liberalisation of intra-SAARC trade and looks forward to increasing our bilateral and multilateral trade with member countries," he said.
South Asia continues to lag behind despite immense natural and human resources and is a region where "poverty, unemployment and economic disparities stare us on our face," Ashraf said.
The challenges of the region can be tackled by "developing home-grown solutions" and the diversity of SAARC countries should be used to accelerate development through greater connectivity, he said.
"History will not forgive us if member countries continue to be bogged down by narrow considerations. The 1.2 billion people of South Asia expect their leaders to exercise vision, statesmanship and think out of the box to put SAARC in the league of other groupings," Ashraf said.
The political leadership of South Asia must "show courage, flexibility and statesmanship to resolve inter-state conflicts and dismantle political barriers for laying the foundations of a regional economic take off", he added.