Consul General of China in Lahore Zhao Shiren says the recently concluded 3rd Belt and Road Forum has injected a fresh energy into longstanding cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Speaking at a seminar organized by Institute of international Relations & Media Research on The 3rd BRF: Benefits to Pakistan and Global Shared Community here on Sunday, he said both sides agreed to fast track development of the Gwadar Port and ML-1 upgradation. In addition, 20 agreements and MoUs were signed, covering cooperation on the BRI, infrastructure, mining, industry, green and low-carbon development, health, space cooperation, digital, development cooperation and agricultural export to China.
CG China said during the BRF, 458 outcomes have been reached, including the Beijing Initiative for Deepening Cooperation on Connectivity, Belt and Road Green Development, International Digital Economy Cooperation, the Green Investment and Finance Partnership, and High-Level Principles on Corruption-free Belt and Road Building. They also include specific targets such as providing 100,000 training opportunities on green development for partner countries by 2030, and increasing the number of joint laboratories to 100. He said commercial agreements worth $97.2 billion have also been concluded at the BRF CEO Conference, which will help generate jobs and growth in the BRI countries. The Forum also decided to establish a BRF secretariat to facilitate institution-building and project implementation.
Mr. S.M. Tanveer, provincial minister of the Punjab, invited Chinese companies to invest in new industries and technologies in Punjab. He said potential areas of mutual cooperation included development of agriculture parks and introduction of new methods and techniques for promoting high-yielding crops, introducing long staple cotton with modern farming techniques developed by Chinese experts, value added industry for food processing, value chain for production and export of meat to the Chinese markets, providing demand-driven technical education & vocational training for new Chinese industries coming to Punjab, and cooperation in installing air purification towers for improving air quality in Punjab.
Muhammad Mehdi, chairman of Institute of International Relations and Media Research, which organized the seminar said there can be no second opinion that Pakistan and China take the same stand on whether it is international affairs or regional issues. He said big initiatives like CPEC invoke different opinions and some even attempt to find a military purpose behind such a project. The answer to any such thinking has been very realistically given by President Xi in his speech at the recent BRI Forum when he said: “We have learned that the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit is the most important source of strength for Belt and Road cooperation. I once said that the pioneers of the ancient silk routes won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns, horses or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing ships loaded with goods.”
Muhammad Mehdi said after the recent summit, BRI has entered a new phase as the industrialization process will begin in the developing countries. For Pakistan, this possible change would be of extraordinary importance as it has the potential to revive its economy through it and what it needs is a kick-start, which the 3rd BRF promises.
Referring to the recent visit of Prime Minister Kakar to China, the Prof Zhourong Senior fellow for financial studies of Chongyang Institute of Renmin University of China said via video link that CPEC is an important project related to BRI. He said that CPEC has had a profound impact on Pakistan’s economy for the past ten years. The socio-economics of Pakistan is progressing a lot and with this project, mutual relations between Pakistan and China are getting more stable and positive changes are also taking place in the world economy.
Former Pakistan ambassador Nazir Hussain said it is unfortunate that CPEC did not progress at the scale, and speed as had been planned because the associated projects of economic activities (special economic zones) lagged behind the schedule.
He said the historic CPEC fell victim to global propaganda and disinformation campaigns. The Western think-tanks churned out fake statistics of costs, terms of agreements, and project viability and they were joined by local influencers of dubious integrity in spreading doubts with malicious intentions. He said it was a planned effort to stall CPEC and stop China and Pakistan from opening this unique route that would connect South Asian and Chinese civilizations. He said there is a lesson for both Pakistan and China to build the capacity to respond effectively to the fake stories, disinformation, and politically motivated propaganda. Dr. Amjad Magsi from Punjab University said both countries believe in the idea of a “shared destiny” and it is that belief which is root for the success of the other. He said China’s help and cooperation to Pakistan extends way beyond CPEC, be it diplomacy, politics, military, healthcare, education, energy, infrastructure, or even disaster management.
Prof. Dr. Zhang Jiamei, Peking University, Beijing, while speaking on the video link, said that in the recent forum of BRI, a message has been given to the whole world that everyone will work together with BRI to achieve common interests that lead to a shared future. China will continue to provide high level support to CPEC. Pakistan should make every effort to protect Chinese people. We both countries will work for the common interests of mankind. There should be cultural exchange between the two countries so that there is no misunderstanding on cultural grounds.
Dr. Shabbir Ahmad Khan of Department of Political Science, Punjab University, emphasized that China is emerging as a peaceful political power and an economic giant globally. China is moving ahead in leadership than the West or the rest of the world which is facing an acute crisis of leadership. He suggested that there should be a China Monetary Fund (CMF) like the IMF to rescue friendly nations from financial stress.
Dr Ahtisham Ali from Government College University, Lahore, said that in the prospect of CPEC and Pak-China cooperation, it’s a need of the hour that people of both countries should come closer and develop cultural harmony. He said that being a professor of literature he suggests translations of literary and cultural texts to bridge the differences between the countries. He added that Urdu translations of Chinese literary texts are very few so far, however at GC University; they are trying to promote them as key sources to experience a refined taste of emotions, feelings, and word outlook of Chinese people, culture, and traditions.
Prof Salah Ud Din Ayubi from FC College said the USA replaced the global leadership of the UK in the 20th century and China is replacing the USA in the 21st century. He said the funding of BRI projects is enhancing Chinese influence in global affairs just the way Marshall Plan funding did for the USA after WWII. Although the size of CPEC is insignificant in the context of BRI, the role of China in Pakistan’s economy in general and trade in particular is by no means insignificant. He said Pakistan is the third most significant economy after India and Russia, among the 14 countries that share borders with China and it has not yet harvested the true yield of this geographical proximity. “We have more than tripled our imports from China (from $5.2bn to $16.3bn) and less than doubled our exports to China (from $1.4bn to $2.5bn) from 2012 to 2022. This requires Pakistan to put its own house in order instead of blaming others.”
Dr Waheed Ahmad Khan said a complete transition towards geo-economics has not taken place in Pakistan’s foreign policy because of security challenges, particularly in its relationship with India and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan; being a developing country with limited economic resources which restricts its capacity to fully leverage geo-economic strategies in its foreign policy; being situated in a complex and dynamic region, where competing interests of major powers intersect often prioritizing security and geopolitical considerations over purely economic interests; and maintaining strong defence ties with several countries that tend to receive more attention due to security imperatives. In order to address these issues, he said, Pakistan needs to focus on fostering regional cooperation, resolving political disputes, enhancing security measures, investing in infrastructure development, and diversifying its economy.