Giving his keynote speech at a conference in Islamabad, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong expressed satisfaction that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will provide an important platform for a win-win cooperation in Asia and beyond. He said that CPEC is the pilot project of One Belt One Road initiative and is a leading demonstration in the promotion of BRI. CPEC is a project that has cross border consensus as it follows principles of mutual partnership and peaceful development.
Islamabad: There cannot be sustained economic growth and development in an environment riven by deep mistrust and long-standing disputes and conflicts. South Asia needs to follow the Chinese ambitions of mutual development and common interests in order to give impetus to the vision of shared destinies if the region wants to become peaceful and prosperous.
In his inaugural address at the Two-Day National Conference titled ‘Changing Security Situation in South Asia and Development of CPEC’ organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Federal Minister of Interior and Narcotics Control, Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that through CPEC, South Asia will cease to be the corridor of conflict and become a corridor of cooperation. But for this we need to continue engagement at all levels and remain firmly resolute in our commitment to peace. He said that CPEC is collaborative project between the two most reliable partners in the world, Pakistan and China especially given their time-tested friendship. According to him, think- tanks, academics, business leaders around the globe are engaged in discussing CPEC which reflects its true potential and importance. But while South Asia’s population and geography can be a boon towards progress, this also remains one of the most heavily militarized regions, with two nuclear states. South Asians needs to come together and create an enabling environment to embrace the security and well-being which CPEC is offering. Under Vision 2025, the Government of Pakistan has envisaged the country as a hub of trade, commerce and connectivity. ‘Critics may argue that the Government is just building roads, but in reality everything whether it is health services, education, or business needs better connectivity without which nothing is possible.
In his keynote address, Mr. Sun Weidong, Ambassador of People’s Republic of China to Pakistan said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road Initiative provides an important network and platform to achieve win-win cooperation in Asia and beyond. It is the best reflection of the Silk Road Spirit, featuring peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and prosperity. He said that CPEC is crucial pilot project of the Belt and Road initiative since it has become a leading demonstration in the promotion of B&R as it now enters full implementation stage, making smooth and satisfactory progress.
The Ambassador shared that CPEC has cross-border consensus from people of both sides because it follows principles of mutual partnership and peaceful development. He explained that CPEC follows ‘a new type of international relations based on win-win cooperation by forging partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation, on the basis of friendship rather than alliances. China wants to actively promote policy synergies rather than Cold War doctrinal divisions,’ he stressed. Providing data on China’s future contributions to the world in the next five years, he said that his country is expected to import goods worth USD 8 trillion, attract foreign investment worth USD 600 billion, and at the same time will be investing USD 750 billion in other countries. ‘China and South Asia with their collective population of 3 billion people will be the largest emerging market in the world and with the blueprint of CPEC finally becoming a reality with unprecedented development in four years, the Early Harvest projects are now reaching fruition and growing like bamboo shoots across the land of Pakistan,’ he concluded.
Welcoming delegates to the conference, President of IPRI, Ambassador (R) Abdul Basit said that peace is sine qua non for sustainable development, and Pakistan has always strived for and continues to strive for normal relations with all its neighbours. ‘Our First Neighbour Policy is driven by the national desire to move from conflict management to conflict resolution. History tells us that we cannot build a sustainable and balanced regional cooperative framework on unpredictable and tenuous bilateral relations.’
In his opening remarks, Mr. Omer Ali from the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), co-organiser of the conference, pointed out that CPEC has put Pakistan in a much stronger negotiating position globally, and it is likely to increase direly needed cooperation with other neighbouring countries since the Corridor will raise many secluded layers of society from abject poverty.
In the session on ‘Geopolitics of the Region and Development of CPEC’ chaired by Ambassador (R) Inamul Haque, Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi from Quaid-i-Azam University reviewed the geo-politico-economic trends of South Asia vis-a-vis CPEC. He pointed out that the world is witnessing a ‘cult of the offensive’ at the geopolitical level and in the midst of such seemingly intensifying agendas, CPEC presents a radical break and opportunity to steer South Asia in the direction of mutual cooperation through economic interlinkages. He stressed that South Asia cannot afford to continue on its path of confrontation and hostility if it wants to become a powerful economic bloc.
Professor Dr. Syed Rifaat Hussain from National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) was of the view that South Asia is no longer a subordinate system and has gained greater autonomy. Yet, notwithstanding its growing strategic weight, it is still segmented. The main cause of this lack of integration is the dominant position of India in South Asian power structure. Dr Rifaat opined that India’s rise to power has been facilitated by the United States which has encouraged New Delhi to play the role of a balancer to China since the latter’s peaceful rise has been viewed with great alarm by Washington. ‘It is not a coincidence that India and the US are the only two countries that have publicly opposed CPEC,’ he remarked. According to him, China presents India with a twofold problem: material and ideational. With a GDP of approximately 11 trillion dollars which is growing at about 8 per cent per year, the Chinese economy is bigger and expanding more rapidly than India’s 3 trillion dollar economy. The Indians fear that as a result of its superior and sustained economic growth China would amass an overwhelming preponderance of power that would frustrate India’s long-standing desire to play the role of a regional hegemon in South Asia.