Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf Wednesday contended that Pakistan would have a crucial role in India`s efforts to acquire energy from the Central Asian Republics, saying peace and stability are essential for the socio-economic development of the region.
"India`s need for energy and trade with Central Asian Republics is largely dependent on Pakistan," Ashraf said in his address at the inauguration of the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in the southern port city of Karachi.
"Peace and stability are essential for socio-economic development of the region. It is a matter of satisfaction that both India and Pakistan are moving forward in the right direction through the composite dialogue framework," he said.
South Asia, which is home to one-fifth of the world population and blessed with immense natural resources, has the "potential to emerge as a leading and potent economic force", he told a gathering that included diplomats, senior Pakistani and foreign military officials and representatives of armament firms from round the world.
Ashraf spoke at length on foreign policy issues, including Pakistan`s ties with the US and China, as well as the challenges confronting his country.
"Pakistan is confronted with complex challenges. The external and internal threats to Pakistan range from socio-economic to politico-military spectrum. We are confronted with extremism, militancy and intolerance in the society," he said.
"The cumulative internal and external effects have somewhat eroded Pakistan`s space to manoeuvre. In the midst of all these challenges, there lie opportunities for us," he added.
The world is in transition at a rapid pace and its "economic centre of gravity is gradually shifting to Asia, more specifically to Asia Pacific", Ashraf remarked.
In an apparent reference to the strains that have marked ties between Islamabad and Washington since early last year, Ashraf said recent events had "created space for reviewing terms of Pakistan-US engagement and I consider this to be more of an opportunity than a challenge".
On the other hand, Pakistan`s relations with China were "time tested" and could be further enhanced by focusing on trade and energy sectors, he said.
Pakistan could benefit from China in defence collaboration, "offsetting the undeclared technological apartheid", he said.
Pakistan could also benefit from the rise of Turkey and Malaysia as new centres of economic influence, Ashraf said.
In a nod to Islamabad`s recent efforts to upgrade its
relations with Moscow, Ashraf said: "Russian aspirations to increase influence and diversify trade provides ideal opportunities for Pakistan to expand relations with Russia on broader basis."
Recent interaction between Russian and Pakistani authorities were "quite productive and points to eagerness on both sides to deepen our bilateral ties", he said.
There is also great potential for Pakistan`s relations with Iran, which can be a "source of much needed energy" and a bilateral gas pipeline project will open up a new chapter of deep engagement, Ashraf said.
The premier reiterated Pakistan`s support for an "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process" in Afghanistan and said Islamabad "is ready to lend any help in this regard".
He further said landlocked Afghanistan depends on Pakistan for trade with the outside world.
The premier noted that Pakistan has a "large defence manufacturing, training and support infrastructure" that is capable of meeting the needs of its armed forces and demands from other countries.
Pakistan`s armed forces provide the country the "strength needed for stability domestically and a strong shield against external aggression", he said.
"There is a national consensus across the political divide to safeguard Pakistan?s culture, identity and our way of life. The way the people came together to condemn attack on (teenage rights activist) Malala (Yousufzai) demonstrates that we would not allow any extremist elements to dictate their agenda," Ashraf said.
Pakistan, he said, condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
"It is our belief that a world free of terrorism, is in the interest of the international community. That is why we have assumed the lead role in the global war on terror.
"We also believe that real victory against terrorists is only possible if, besides the ongoing military action, root causes of terrorism like foreign occupation,oppression, denial of fundamental rights, economic deprivation and injustice are addressed," he said.