Former governor of BB Dr Atiur Rahman speaking at a thematic session at Kathmandu yesterday. -AA
Former governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr Atiur Rahman observed that political tension is the main obstacles to enhance connectivity within the region and sub-regions.
He said importance of Asia as a hub of global economic growth has been increasing at an unprecedented pace over the last decade. Therefore, economic cooperation and connectivity within the region and the sub-regions have become critically important, he pointed out. "But political tensions within the region and sub-regions are major impediments to such cooperation and connectivity," Rahman said.
He stressed on hard work and remaining together to overcome such challenges for greater interests of the people in the region. Atiur made the remarks while presiding over a thematic session on 'Contours of Belt and Road Initiative for South Asia' at Kathmandu organized by Nepal China Friendship Forum (NCFF) yesterday.
Former Foreign Minister of Nepal Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, as chief guest, opened the event while experts from India, China and Pakistan including Dr Shankar Sharma, former Vice-Chairman of National Planning Commission of Nepal, Prof Dr Prabir De from Research and Information System for Developing Countries, New Delhi, Prof Dr Suchang from Fudan University of China and Shafqat Munir, a journalist from Islamabad participated as panelists. Dr Rahman pointed out that against the backdrop of global economic slowdown, most of the South Asian countries have shown strong resilience and have in fact thrived significantly.
"While funding from the Western economies has been on the decline for quite some time, China has come forward as a reliable development partner for countries in South Asia. India as well opened lines of credit for smaller South Asian countries including Bangladesh."
In this context, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) led by China intends to link 65 countries and 4.4 billion people in Asia, East Africa, Middle East and Europe. South Asian economies can certainly tap this great opportunity and build further on their recent macroeconomic achievements, he added. He said China, of course, will have to further open up to create market for the export products from South Asia.
Rahman acknowledged that there are some political concerns which need to be resolved through prudent diplomatic moves. The Indo-Pak disputes over Kashmir and the Rohingya crisis at the borders between Bangladesh and Myanmar are examples of such political hurdlers, according to him.
"But we are optimistic that eventually the 'political concerns' will be overwhelmed by 'economic benefits'" he said. He added that a "win-win cooperation" for all is quite possible as there already exists economic involvement of China with all of the South Asian countries.
For example, each year goods worth USD 70 billion pass between India and China. China is the largest trading partner of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka and Nepal. Dr Rahman emphasized on importance of bringing all stakeholders in confidence when implementing mega inter-country projects such as those being proposed under OBOR.
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