India must maintain a relationship of respect with Pakistan as its rapidly growing economy needs access to the markets of Europe and Central Asia via Pakistan is the only country which could provide this, former National Security Advisor Nasser Janjua has said.
Speaking at a regional conference on 'Connectivity and Geo-Economics in South Asia', Mr Janjua, who stepped down this week after spending nearly three years in the office, said economy and security are two sides of the same coin with one having a causative relationship with the other, Pakistan's Express Tribune reported.
Noting that stability in South Asia is a prerequisite for its connectivity, he said it is only through connectivity economic growth and stability can be brought about.
The conference, organised by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank, was attended by prominent scholars from both the countries.
Mr Janjua said India's rapidly growing economy needs access to the rich markets of Europe and Central Asia. Pakistan, he said, is the only country which could provide India with the access it truly desired.
He acknowledged that without involving India in the the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), free trade in the region is "quite difficult".
The former Pak national security advisor made such comments despite the fact that Pakistan and China don't share a border. Pakistan's only link to China is through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). It is India and Afghanistan who share a border, now cut-off by Pakistan's forceful occupation of PoK.
Participants at the conference explored how to achieve connectivity in a region that is beset with old rivalries and instabilities.
Asked if China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which countries like Pakistan have already signed, can help achieve that connectivity, the former NSA said Pakistan has a central role in the emerging geo-economic order of South Asia, as it can help connect the countries economically.
"Even India cannot trade with this part of the world without Pakistan on board," he claimed, adding that the "bitterness of the past should be overcome".
Indian scholar Sudheendhra Kulkarni said that South Asia is the most populated, least integrated and one of the poorest regions of the world. The trade between South Asian countries often circumvents the others, passing through third countries.
Speakers at the conference he pointed out that rivalries and stereotypical perceptions about each other have been hampering connectivity and trade.
They discussed the policy implications of projects like the BRI and the CPEC and what would be the impact of supplementing these efforts with enhanced cultural contacts and cross-border economy.
Another Indian scholar, Shanthie D'Souza, said that for connecting the region, small confidence-building steps were required.
Other participants said India and Pakistan must establish linkages for trade to flow in the region.