The Inaugural Session of the two-day Joint International Seminar on “Peace, Growth, and Empowerment: Promoting Regional Connectivity” organized by the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) and the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC), took place at NUST on the 30th of November, 2016.

In the Opening Address, Rector NUST, Lt. General (R) Naweed Zaman acclaimed the efforts of NUST and RDDC in joining hands to organize the seminar. Rector NUST said that the state of regional connectivity in South Asia was far from satisfactory as was evidenced by the extremely low intra-regional trade in South Asia which amounted to only 5 percent of the total South Asian trade. In contrast, the intra-ASEAN trade was almost 25 percent of the total ASEAN trade. He cited a number of reasons for poor connectivity in South Asia such as high levels of trust deficit between India and Pakistan mainly due to Indian intransigence and belligerence, poverty, terrorism, the unresolved Kashmir issue, long turmoil in Afghanistan, and the isolation of Iran. Rapid urbanization in the region, he said, offered a big opportunity for fast-tracking regional connectivity through well-considered measures like reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, public-private partnerships, business-to-business linkages.

Speaking at the occasion, the Guest of Honor, former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General (R) Ehsan Ul Haq said, “China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs) and other South Asian States have a total population of approximately 3.5 billion which is more than 45 percent of the total global population. This massive population bloc does not deserve to be held hostage to pursuit of negative politics of containment and encirclement.” He further stated that promoting regional connectivity meant fostering inter-regional and intra-regional connectivity and that One Belt One Road Initiative and its flagship node, CPEC, were destined to pursue these two types of connectivity as part of a one holistic and concerted approach for maximum peace, prosperity and harmony. He further stressed that regional connectivity needed actions by states, by economic actors, and by socio-cultural forces and agents simultaneously to yield lasting and beneficial results.




Speaking earlier, H.E. Ole Thonke, the Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan, hailed the joint collaboration of NUST and RDDC as a positive step forward in global knowledge-based collaboration. He highlighted the role of Denmark in international peacekeeping and peace building. He stated that Denmark encouraged efforts aimed at increasing regional cooperation and integration and was committed to furthering different kinds of initiatives aimed at enhancing the level of connectivity in the region. He said in the contemporary world no country and nation could afford to live in oblivion of the general state of the world. It was, he said, the responsibility of every country to work toward greater harmony and mutual understanding in its region and the world at large through focused multi-sectoral measures.

The two-day seminar consists of two grand sessions, two plenary sessions, and five exhaustive roundtables. The sessions and roundtables will highlight different aspects of regional connectivity, cooperation, and integration. Discussions and deliberations will take place on diverse but related topics like international humanitarian law, peacebuilding, regional development, participatory development, regional stability, counterterrorism, border management, economic and commercial cooperation, business-to-business relations, social entrepreneurship, inclusive innovation, and cultural diffusion.

High-level functionaries, experts, academics, scholars, and researchers from Denmark, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka are attending. Amongst others, distinguished speakers and participants will include: former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General (R) Ehsan Ul Haq; former Sri Lankan Chief of Army Staff, General (R) Daya Ratnayake; Rector NUST, Lieutenant General (R) Naweed Zaman; former Governor of Balochistan & KPK, Mr. Owais Ghani; former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Mr. Riaz Khokhar; President, Emirates Policy Center Dr. Ebtesam Elketbi; Danish Ambassador to Pakistan, H.E. Ole Thonke; Afghan Member of Parliament, Mr. Mirwais Yasini; Mr. Syed Mahdi Munadi from Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Senior Advisor, Afghan Ministry of Education, Mr. Ataullah Wahidyar, and others.