For Open Doors in South Asia
“Unleashing South Asia: Opening Doors to Challenging Opportunities” was the theme that brought together senior members of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) in Amritsar and Lahore. The series of events kick-started in Amritsar on the Indian side of the border before the delegates moved over to Lahore and Islamabad in Pakistan.
Date and time had special significance. The program commenced as India celebrated her Republic Day. The coming together of business leaders from South Asia and the joint crossing of the border symbolize the determination of the private sector of South Asia towards regional integration.
The timing is auspicious, noted the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s (FNF) Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus. “Amid efforts to prevent the free flow of goods, services, capital and people – and walls going up, this meeting sends out a strong message”, he said.
Suraj Vaidya, the President of SCCI, called the meeting “historic”. Never before in its history had the regional trade body convened in two nations. Vaidya asked the business leaders to address the challenges with optimism. “Let’s look at SAARC and regional integration as a glass half full and not half empty”, the man at the helm of the organization said.
Free movement of people and visa issues, energy, infrastructure and investment promotion – these issues took center stage at the meetings in Amritsar and Lahore.
At the same time, the group discussed ways and means to sharpen SCCI’s profile among stake holders, governments and the general public. The delegates renewed their commitment to strengthen efforts to communicate the importance of economic integration.
SCCI is an under-reported success story, Suraj Vaidya said and a strategic effort to reach out will boost interest of the people in regional issues. Importantly, the meeting brought together not only the business leaders but also senior media representatives from the member countries. Closer interaction with the media is one of the recommendations of the communications strategy of SCCI which the group had developed with the help of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) some months ago.