Let’s resolve disputes for an Asian century: Musharraf

March 8th, 2009 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Steering clear of contentious issues, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf Sunday underlined the need for Pakistan and India to resolve all disputes so that they can expand their economic ties and claim their place in an Asian century.
“This century is the century of geo-economics. It’s the economy which will drive nations towards development and people towards their welfare,” Musharraf told businessmen and the media here.

Musharraf, who is on a private visit to India, was speaking at an interactive lunch organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).

“This century is going to be an Asian century. Are we South Indians ready to be part of this Asian century?” he asked.

“We are out of the loop because of the conflict between India and Pakistan,” he said while contrasting the economies of South Asia with those of China and Southeast Asia.

He stressed on the need for expanding economic and commercial ties between Pakistan and India and among other nations in South Asia on the one hand and for scaling up economic engagement between South Asia and Central Asia on the other hand. Alluding to his country’s geo-strategic location, he said Pakistan has the potential to become a trade and energy corridor for the region.

This economic potential, he stressed, will not be realised unless India and Pakistan resolve all disputes and usher in an era of peace, harmony and friendship.

“We can have permanent peace through the resolution of disputes. Peace and harmony are preconditions to improving business ties,” he said.

Musharraf “appeared relaxed,” and is planning to see more of Delhi, check out some resuarants and meet common people - things which he could not do last time he visited India in April nearly four years ago. He is likely to return to Islamabad Monday.

A day after he tried to link the rise in extremism in the region to the resolution of the festering Kashmir issue, Musharraf, however, chose to stay clear of controversial issues.

Speaking at the India Today conclave Saturday, Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for about nine years, asked India and Pakistan to shed the burden of history, and grasp the opportunity to resolve the Kashmir issue.

In his characteristically blunt manner, he also linked the rise in extremism and terrorism to the resolution of the festering Kashmir issue - remarks that did not go down well in India.

He also irked many in the audience by speaking about the alienation of the Muslims in India and by equating Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, blamed for many terrorist attacks in India, with India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

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