Islamabad hosted the day-long 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization summit to finalize a “Vision 2025” plan for expanding trade and prosperity among member nations.
“There has never been a more opportune time to realize our dreams of connectivity for regional prosperity,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz sharif, who was elected new chairman of the organization. “We can and should achieve even more by pooling together our individual efforts for greater synergy.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the heads of state in attendance. Turkey, Iran and Pakistan founded ECO in 1985.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, said that peace and stability in the region will play a greater role in achieving mutual economic goals. “We can meet the challenges of poverty by implementing a joint strategy,” he said.
Sharif, later in the day, expressed the member nations’ resolve to fight terrorism and extremism collectively.
“We are determined to collectively face challenges such as extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking in order to realize our vision of making the region a zone of peace and prosperity,” he said in a televised press conference. “We have committed ourselves to working together for bringing progressive change to the lives of the people in our region, transforming it into a bastion of peace, progress and prosperity.”
The summit is taking place under tight security after a wave of recent suicide bombings by several different militant groups killed more than 125 people. All roads leading to the summit venue have been blocked and all offices, schools and most businesses in Islamabad have been closed.
Pakistan’s ongoing war with local and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants has killed tens of thousands of people. But Islamabad is using the ECO summit as a chance to show investors its potential as one of Asia’s emerging markets.
“Our economic indicators are up,” Sharif told the meeting.
Government officials have also described the summit as an opportunity to show that Pakistan cannot be isolated from the international scene. Last year Pakistan had to cancel a key regional cooperation conference after neighboring India and Afghanistan refused to attend; both nations blame Pakistani-based militants for carrying out attacks in their countries, and tensions with India have been high over cross-border violence in the disputed Kashmir region.