PM (Pakistan is gateway for trade, energy and oil: PM)

MINSK (Belarus): Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif Tuesday said Pakistan was a gateway of trade and energy between its northern, eastern and western neighbours, connecting the regions through trade routes, oil and gas pipelines, and power transmission lines.

Addressing an event where he was conferred the title of Honourable Professor at the prestigious Belarusian State University, he said: “We have the necessary infrastructure in place, as well as the manpower. The need of the hour is to improve connectivity and efficiency by spreading a network of roads, railways and telecommunications.” The event was attended by a large number of members of the faculty, academicians and students.

In a talk delivered to the students after Rector Sergey V. Ablameyko donned him with a gown and conferred on him the title of Honorary Professor, the Prime Minister said Pakistan was a country of nearly 200 million people with a rich pool of young talented human resource, vast, but relatively untapped natural endowments, including mineral resources and sea ports at economically attractive locations. He said Pakistan is situated at the confluence of the ancient silk routes – the cusp of Central, South and West Asia, which makes it a potential major hub of regional economic activity. “We are determined to exploit this enormous potential,” he added.

The Prime Minister who is here on a three-day official visit to meet the top Belarusian leadership and ink a number of important agreements laying the foundation for a strong bilateral relationship, said he felt “truly honoured” to be invited to the most prestigious University in Belarus.

He said Pakistan considers peace and enhancement of regional trade essential for regional prosperity, and mentioned the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, which, he said would change the dynamics of the region, especially with its connectivity projects. “Our region also has ample opportunities of cooperation in the field of energy. We can all reap harvest from various energy projects in the region such as CASA-1000 and the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline project”, he added.

The PM stressed the need to work towards a successful implementation of these projects. The Prime Minister thanked the Belarusian State University for the honour conferred and expressed the hope that ties between the two countries would further strengthen in the days ahead.

The Prime Minister said the august seat of learning has greatly contributed to the intellectual and academic prowess of the people of Belarus, ever since its establishment in 1921. He described the conferment of the degree as a “unique honour ” bestowed upon him by such a renowned institution. The Prime Minister said he regarded this distinct honour as a reflection of the warmth of the people of Belarus towards Pakistan and him.

He spoke high of the University and described it as a beacon of enlightenment. “It has illuminated the minds of many generations. Its contribution towards education and intellectual advancement in this beautiful country is unparalleled.” he said. He said the university was creating inter-linkages with several institutions of learning in Pakistan and expressed confidence that these ties will not only bring the youth of the two countries closer, but would also positively contribute towards enhancing education.

The Prime Minister said his government was focusing on development of country’s educational institutions. “Our Vision 2025 emphasizes a knowledge based economy,” and shared with the students that his government was doubling its budgetary allocation for education. “We remain committed to increase it further to reach 4 percent of GDP. To my mind, there could be no better investment in a nation’s future,” he said.

He said in a complex world, multi-dimensional developments were taking place at a rapid pace affecting the very fabric of lives and thoughts.”We are passing through defining moments of history”, he added. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said besides the traditional challenges of security and development, unanticipated developments relating to environment, climate change and depleting water resources call for closer collaboration, both regionally and globally.

In his view, the rise of Asia as a global political and economic powerhouse was a momentous development.

He said the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Economic Union were growing at an accelerated pace. He termed the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as an important accomplishment. “We have to work together to build on these edifices for pursuing our shared ideals of peace and development”, he added.

Sharing his vision of a peaceful neighbourhood, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan wanted good relations with all its neighbours on the basis of sovereign equality. “We want cordial and cooperative ties with India and Afghanistan. Our relations with Russia are on an upward trend”, he said.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan today was one of the most investor-friendly countries in the world. He pointed that all sectors of economy were open to foreign investment, with no upper limit to foreign equity. “We would like to expand Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the power sector, infrastructure development, agriculture and agro-based industry, mining and oil and gas exploration,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said. “We are committed to good governance, curbing corruption, promoting fiscal discipline, widening the tax base, and introducing fiscal measures to promote growth”, he added.

Recalling the sacrifices, the country has given in its fight against terrorism, he said Pakistan has lost over 60,000 lives of civilians and uniformed personnel. The quantifiable cost of terrorism since 9/11 was in excess of US $ 102 billion, besides the invisible costs due to missed investment opportunities. Today, Pakistan stood fully committed to eliminating the menace of terrorism from its soil. “We will not allow our territory to be used by any terrorists, irrespective of their nationality and ethnicity”, he added. He said the changing dimensions of global and regional dispensation provide a take-off point for forging fresh partnerships and economic alignments in the region. He said Belarus was an important country for Pakistan and it was keen to strengthen ties with it in all spheres. He said the upward trajectory of bilateral relations in the recent past was encouraging. “We would like not just to stay steady on the course, but also to spur its pace further”, he said.

The Prime Minister quoted founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah about the role of higher education in a country’s destiny; “The prosperity and advancement of a nation depend upon its intelligentsia.” The Rector of the University said the title of the Honorary Professor was being conferred on the Prime Minister in recognition of his services for upholding democracy and for bringing Pakistan and Belarus closer. The PM said there was wide scope of cooperation in education between the two countries with choice of options in many disciplines.

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