Indo-Pak dispute a ‘stumbling block’ in regional cooperation with SAARC: Pervez Musharraf

The Indo-Pak dispute was a “stumbling block” in regional cooperation with SAARC proving to be ineffective due to its “politicisation”, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf said on Sunday.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) happens to be the regional instrument for cooperative socio-economic development but it is proving to be quite ineffective, Musharraf said while addressing ‘South Asia Rising’ conference hosted by Eisenhower Fellows from South Asia.

“Individual countries are performing on their own but when we talk of collective performance of South Asia, there is no collective goodwill or collective cooperation and unfortunately the Indo-Pak dispute happens to be the stumbling block,” the former Pakistani president said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that opportunities for collaborative cooperation within South Asia abound.

Collectively we have a large quantity of water available for livestock, for human consumption, for agriculture and also for the cheapest form of power generation,” he said.

Musharraf said that the region also has abundant fertile land and natural resources.

“We also have a very strong and very large human resource potential, which also happens to be very intelligent. However, we do require better literacy and skill development,” he said.

The conference is the third of its kind, with the first two conferences held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2006 and 2012.

The former Pakistani president said South Asia needs to look at itself with introspection and clarity.

The challenges within and between states have had the better of all the abundant opportunities that exist in South Asia, he said at the conference whose focus was on regional connectivity and citizen empowerment.

“We see poor leadership leading with poor governance exacerbated by corruption and nepotism. Then we see political turmoil within and between states as a result of which we are collectively failing to optimise the potential that we have in South Asia for growth,” Musharraf said.

He said that the politicisation of the SAARC platform is another issue.

“We saw politicisation this year when SAARC was supposed to be held in Pakistan but it was scuttled,” he said.

Musharraf said that Kashmir happens to be the main dispute between India and Pakistan, which needs to be resolved.

He also said that Afghanistan has emerged as another challenge obstructing regional cooperation.

“Unfortunately, Afghanistan also blames Pakistan for introducing religious militancy in the region. But nothing is farther from the truth,” he said, adding that it all started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan back in 1979.

Musharraf left Pakistan for Dubai in March last year, after his name was removed from the Exit Control List.

Raman Madhok, Managing Director & Head — CMI Group, from India — and Shahid Mahmud, Chairman and CEO — Interactive Group, were the co-chairs of the two-day conference that will end tomorrow.