ISLAMABAD, Jan 28 (APP):President Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Vice Admiral (R) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique Tuesday said that regional connectivity was prerequisite for promoting economic integration in South Asian and Central Asian countries for common benefits.

In an exclusive interview with APP here, the IPRI President, who also served as an Ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia, said that Pakistan could play central role in realizing this potential.

“Pakistan has important geo- strategic location to prove itself as a gateway for two energy rich regions including Middle East and Central Asia,” he remarked.

He said that Pakistan could also offer concept of shared prosperity to all regional countries for participating in the game-changer project the ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), adding that this project would not only promote regional connectivity but would also go beyond it.

He highlighted the importance of speeding up work on Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project to overcome the energy challenges of the region and promote the concept of shared prosperity.

He said that connecting landlocked Central Asian Countries with the region was also a big challenge, adding that creating such links would help exploit the untapped energy resources of this region.

Khan Hasham Bin Saddique said that Gwadar port was a good opportunity for connecting the Central Asian States with the global market, while the port would also enhance the linkage between the regional countries with potential markets of the world.

He said that Pakistan was also center of gravity in global geo-economic theater because of its geo-strategic location, with two important sea ports Gwadar and Karachi.

“We can play an important role to connect the region with big economies of the world including European Union and African regions for increasing the trade linkages.”

The former ambassador also highlighted the role of neighbouring brotherly country, Iran saying that it owned the energy neck of world in gulf region i.e Strait of Hurmuz while it was also bordering the energy-rich Caspian Sea.

He also highlighted the importance of Pakistan-Iran cooperation in oil and gas sectors, saying that the pending project of Pakistan and Iran gas pipeline would cater to the energy requirements of Pakistan.

He said that both of the countries had already discussed matters related to bilateral trade and softening of boarders for trade liberalization in future.

Replying to a question about $8 billion Saudi Arab investment in Oil refinery in Gwadar Balochistan, he said that it would benefit the country and help in self-sufficiency in petro chemical sector.

He said that currently Pakistan was importing 80,000 barrel refined oil from Saudi Arab, which could be refined inside the country once the Oil Refinery in Gwadar becomes functional.

President IPRI said that Pakistan and Saudi Arab had been engaged in negotiations to develop a roadmap for future cooperation for enhancing trade in petro-chemical sector and increasing quota for Pakistani labrores in Saudi Arab which he said would create employment opportunities.

He said that Pakistan and Saudi Arab had close bilateral relations, rooted in history while huge Pakistan labor force was working in Saudi Arab, sending valuable remittances to their native country.