It does not suit Pakistan to stay away from finding new friends around the world. I truly believe that this century belongs to Asia, more specifically to the countries part of ASEAN and SAARC. The condition in which SAARC is operating does not suit Pakistan, though it includes the states which are next to it. Setting aside the past, it is time to find out partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The region is home to about 550 million people, whose living standards are rising with the passage of time. The region despite being on the receiving end of historical recessions remained stable and the overall economy is on the rise. The current visit of the Indonesian President Joko Widodo can be termed as a good omen. Signing of the preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Indonesia will ensure uncomplicated access to the Indonesian market. Currently, the trade between Pakistan and Indonesia stands around at $2 billion. There is a need to increase this volume and this would only happen at the time when serious efforts would be put to make space in the Indonesian economy. 

The other countries from which Pakistan can learn a lot and can boost its financial relations include: Malaysia, Singapore, Philippine, and Thailand primarily. It should make the ASEAN realise its importance. It is the gateway to Middle East and with the construction of rail-road networks under the auspice of CPEC, there will be ample opportunities to expand business relations. It needs to have strong presence in all ten members of the organization. Unfortunately, no political party in the country extended warm relations with these states. 

JUNAID ALI MALIK,  

Lahore, January 28.