LAHORE - Saarc CCI Pakistan chapter has cancelled its three-day visit to India, where it was going to participate in SAARC Development Fund (SDF) Partnership Conclave 2018 commencing from July 01 due to Indian hostility towards Pakistan especially in regard of sabotaging 19th SAARC Summit which slowed down the pace of regional cooperation and integration.

Talking to media here on Saturday, SAARC CCI senior vice president (SVP) Iftikhar Ali Malik said India is deliberately maligning SAARC for its own vested interests and targeting Pakistan to disrupt trade and peace process in the region. He said it was always fabricated propaganda that India remained steadfast in its commitment for regional cooperation since Indian premier Narendra Modi backed out his promise that India would participate in SAARC conclave held in Islamabad.

He said that Pakistan aimed to convince the SAARC member states that India wanted to divide the region by targeting the regional inter-governmental organisation. He said the Saarc Summit, in 2016, was to be held in Pakistan but India boycotted following the Uri attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers in held Kashmir. He further said India again boycotted 19th SAARC Summit 2017 which was cancelled subsequently due to stubborn attitude of the Indian government.

Iftikhar Malik made it clear that that India was impeding the SAARC process as Islamabad always remained committed to the regional body. “SAARC promotes development of economic and regional integration. If the members help each other economically, poverty and illiteracy can be reduced,” he added. He said the scope of regional cooperation in the SAARC had proliferated, and it had started to engage political, economic, social, cultural and other aspects in its dialogue.

SAARC CCI SVP said India preferred to maintain relations on the bilateral level rather than pursue a regional agenda under the SAARC framework which is lethal for regional cooperation on vast canvas. He said India and Pakistan should try to resolve their differences and make the "quest" for normalisation and peace the "noblest of goals" in the region, taking a cue from the recent thaw in the relations between North and South Korea and America and North Korea.

He said India should come forward with pragmatic approach to bring peace and prosperity setting aside its malice agenda against Pakistan. He said Indian businessmen should influence their government and advice the authorities on improving trade relations. He said that an emphatic change was needed in bilateral trade among the SAARC member countries. He stressed the need for removing hidden barriers which were hampering trade.

He said that SAARC’s estimated potential for regional trade was around $100 billion, but it was currently ranging from $28b to $30b. “Opening up of SAARC market is the need of the hour. The cost of intra-SAARC trade is among the highest in the world,” he said.

Iftikhar Ali Malik further said that SAARC member states were still far from their goal of regional economic integration. “It is important to build a sound foundation without which the goal of South Asian Economic Union will only remain a dream, he concluded.