Recently, 13th Summit meeting was held in Islamabad. Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan chaired the summit. It was attended by H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H.E. Mr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan, H.E. Mr. Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic, H.E Mr. UlugbekRozukulov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, H.E. Mr. Askar Myrzakhmetov, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan and H.E. Mr. Hazrat Omer Zhakhilwal Special Envoy of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, was elected as the Chairman of the summit. Prime Minister in his welcoming remarks, highlighted the importance of the ECO region and appreciated ECO’s performance in various fields, reiterated the commitment of Government of Pakistan to the objectives of the Organisation and expressed the hope that progress towards regional integration would be further accelerated to transform the lives of over half a billion people. In their remarks at the Summit, the Heads of State/Government of the Member States underscored the need for expansion of cooperation in various fields under the framework of ECO and reaffirmed their support to the goals and objectives of the Organisation.

Prime Minister of Pakistan has always been a staunch advocate of regionalism and connectivity and he always aims at developing economic ties through multilateralism. He himself takes interest in developing economic and diplomatic relations with all countries. His participation in World Economic Forum was also a step to create good economic ties at multinational forums. Hosting of ECO Summit is also a step in this direction.

During the Summit, the Heads of State/Government reviewed the performance of the ECO, the progress made since the Baku Summit in 2012, and underlined the challenges and opportunities lying ahead, giving directions to pace up progress in various sectors. The Secretary General of ECO, Mr. Halil Ibrahim Akca, in his report to the Summit, outlined the performance of the Organization since the 12th ECO Summit held in Baku in 2012.

Prime Minister of Pakistan in his speech of 13th Summit Meeting of ECO said, “Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of the Middle East has always been prized for South Asia, Central Asia and its economic potential. The current performance of Pakistan’s economy is living up to its promise. Indeed, Pakistan’s economy has come to be acknowledged as one of the great success stories of recent years by global financial institutions and observers. Last year, Pakistan had the best performing stock market in South Asia and the fifth best in the world. Our economic indicators are up and pointing in the right direction. Inflation is low and GDP growth has been robust.”

Undoubtedly, the policies of present government have steered the economy of Pakistan on the right direction. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a big opportunity for the whole region to boost their economies by connecting with it. Economies and nations are inter-dependant for their development and connectivity has key role in this regard. ECO countries have also immense trade potential and all member countries can take advantage from each other by using their connectivity with other regions and States. It is direly needed that all member countries of ECO develop, operationalise and commercialise the ECO intra-regional transit networks as well as corridors connecting ECO Region with other regions in line with the ECO rail and road development plans, with a view to building the required infrastructure needed for bolstering trade and transport connectivity within the Region and beyond. It has also rightly been enshrined in the Declaration of the recent ECO Summit. The member countries have also agreed to ensure continued and enhanced cooperation in the areas of common interest through effective, timely and result-oriented projects and programmes in the Organisation and to undertake to implement the long-term sectoral priorities of ECO on development of transport and communication infrastructure; facilitation of trade and investment; and effective use of the region’s vast energy resources and to consider ways and means to promote ECO connectivity with other regions in these areas.

It was also  emphasised at the summit that there would be enhanced regional cooperation in the energy sector, focusing on energy efficiency, energy infrastructure development, intra-regional energy trade and access to affordable energy. CASA-1000 is a good step in helping countries like Pakistan to overcome their electricity shortage. With growing populations and developing economies, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have fast-growing demand for electricity. At the moment, these countries’ potential for growth is not fully exploited due to shortage of electricity. By building new transmission facilities, the CASA-1000 Project would give a much-needed boost to Pakistan’s electricity situation. This is a good omen that the project has been materialised between ECO member countries.

Pakistan has an ideal location and it has political stability, and, now increasingly, the physical infrastructure to achieve our common vision for making ECO a powerful economic bloc and an engine of growth. Now it is high time to work on streamlining our institutional mechanisms. All member countries of ECO should now operationalise trade agreements, while respecting and accommodating each Member State’s interests and concerns.

We know that meaningful trade can only take place with better cooperation on transport infrastructure among member states. The existence of efficient trade, transit and transport corridors across the region will help economic development and prosperity of peoples of member states.

The summit unanimously adopted the Islamabad Declaration 2017 that represents the collective political will of member states to focus on connectivity of energy, infrastructure, transport, and trade for regional prosperity. Another important outcome of the Summit is ECO Vision 2025 which provides guidelines to the organisation in all spheres of ECO activity.

It is a matter of great honour for Pakistan and the whole nation to host the ECO Summit in Pakistan. There had been immense enthusiasm amongst the Pakistanis during the Summit. All the State institutions geared up themselves for hosting this Summit and the institutions/organisations involved in conducting the Summit did commendable job. We hope that connectivity for regional prosperity as envisioned by ECO member countries will continue to bolster the economic and trade ties among member states and these would exploit their real potential of trade for the prosperity of the whole region.