ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal hopes that there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India after the State Assembly elections in the neighbouring country.

Talking to Voice of America, he said that by March these State elections will be over and there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India.

Responding to a question, he said that “I think we should be mature enough to think beyond that was India and Pakistan have to live together, we cannot change our geography, and we must think in terms of peace," he said.

He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a strong advocate of peace in the region and Pakistan has actively pursued peace with Afghanistan and India because our development depends upon peace in the region.

To a question, he said that in our elections India is not affected, nobody

speaks about India, nobody does any India bashing but somehow we feel that the electoral dynamics in India are still quite sensitive to Pakistan bashing.

"So whenever you have, an electoral process in India, the government takes a certain hawkish position towards Pakistan," Iqbal said, adding, that after these elections there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India.

Responding to a question, he said that India's reaction on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is "a knee jerk" reaction and India needs to look at opportunities with CPEC as increasing regional cooperation. 

"If you are even doing trade through CPEC you can reach out to any destination in China from this area. So we are very hopeful and we continue to work to normalise our relations with India," Ahsan said.

In an interview with APP, Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan's remarkable economic turnaround and its historic success against the menace of terrorism in the past three years is luring international businessmen which now see the country as an investment hub with rising opportunities.

The minister said that Pakistan has made a tremendous progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and its success against terrorism and its economic progress have been duly acknowledged by the international community.

"Three years ago, terrorists were holding the country hostage and the State was under siege, but today, by the grace of Almighty Allah, terrorists are now under siege and on the run," the Minister said, adding, that the number of terrorist incidents have fallen 10 fold in the past three years.

"We have achieved a success with our own resources, and we have achieved a success which has no parallel in the world".

Ahsan Iqbal expressed the strong resolve of the government to purge the society of every sign that promote any kind of hatred and violence.  He said that Pakistan is a country where all people regardless of their cast and creed have the right to live peacefully according to their religious faith.

He said that three years ago, international media had a negative view of the country. Three years after, the same media is now praising Pakistan which is among the fastest growing economy in the world, he added.

Comparing the economic situation today to that of three years ago, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said that the economic growth was stuck at 3 to 3.5 per cent on average between 2008 and 2013.

"I am happy to state that last year, we achieved 4.8 per cent growth and we are expecting 5.5 per cent growth in the current financial year. Next year, Inshallah, we will touch the 6 per cent growth".

He also highlighted the historic gains in the foreign exchange reserve which has risen to $24 billion today from $8 billion three years ago.

"This is a record that a country has been able to increase its foreign exchange reserve in such a manner," he added.

He recalled that when the government of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took over after winning a landslide victory in the 2013 election, the country was facing its worst energy crisis and people were forced to live without electricity for 18 hours a day.

Today, the power outages have reduced to 6-8 hours a day, he said.

"This is the kind of efforts that the present government is putting in for the progress of the country," he added.

The Minister said that between 1947 and 2013, Pakistan only managed to produce 16,000 MW to 17,000 MW of electricity per day.

"As a result of relentless efforts of the present government to deal with the energy crisis, the country will have 10,000 MW by 2018."

Ahsan Iqbal said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a game-changer and will Pakistan a regional hub of trade.

Referring to huge investment under the CPEC, he said that as much as $35 billion is being spent alone on improving country's energy sector.

"As a result of the huge economic turnaround; tremendous improvement in the security and the CPEC have changed Pakistan's profile and international investors have now started to come to Pakistan in a big way," the Minister said.

He said that recently a Dutch company acquired Engro for $440 million which was the biggest acquisition by a foreign company in the country's history. French auto giant Renault and a German truck-maker are coming to Pakistan to set up automobile factories, he said.

All investors are coming to Pakistan as they now see opportunities, he added. "Now the time has come that we start taking pride in a rising Pakistan," the Minister said while, adding, that the overseas Pakistanis have an important role to play.

He said they are the country's brand managers and should sell their country's brand by highlighting its positive attributes and the facts. "We will make Pakistan great".