Maritime Silk Road is spectacular project, says Makhdoom Babar

Eurasia News

Maritime Silk Road is spectacular project, says Makhdoom Babar
Maritime Silk Road is spectacular project, says Makhdoom Babar. Photo by Daily Mail Islamabad

Monitoring Desk: Maritime Silk Road is spectacular project, says Makhdoom Babar, reports Daily Mail Islamabad.

The Editor in Chief of The Daily Mail and Chairman of Pakistan-China Media Friendship Association,  Makhdoom Babar has said that Chinese leaders’ initiative of One Belt and One Road and Maritime Silk Road was spectacular project that required a great deal of vision and farsightedness.

Addressing the International Seminar on One Belt and One Road and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road at Quanzhou city of China’s Fujian Province on Wednesday, Makhdoom Babar said that Pakistan and China were already engaged in a similar natured project through Pak-China Economic Corridor which has paved the way further for One Belt and One Road initiative with regard to Pakistan. Makhdoom Babar also announced to hold a mega Media Forum to highlight and promote One Belt and One Road and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road project, next month in Islamabad. He said that the Forum would be held by The Daily Mail through the platform of Pak-China Media Friendship Association that has a very significant number of journalists from both China and Pakistan, as its members.
Following is the full text of Mr. Makhdoom Babar’s address at the Conference.
The longstanding friendship between Pakistan and China is today regarded as a hallmark of good neighborly and friendly relations between countries. This relationship is based on mutual respect, equality and common benefit, support to each other’s matters of fundamental interest, extending sincere help in times of need and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs. The friendship between the two countries has stood steadfast despite the changes in domestic, region and international environment on political, economic and strategic scenarios. It is therefore quite apt to say that Pakistan and China have a shared vision and destiny of a world based on common prosperity, development and peace. The two countries are joined by rivers and mountains, history and culture, and remain with each other through thick and thin.
The longevity of these relations dates back to antiquity, when famous Silk Road which ran parallel to the present Karakorum Highway (KKH); served as a channel for commerce as well as exchange of ideas and knowledge. It was at Taxila, a town near present Pakistan capital Islamabad that the famous Chinese scholars Xuan Zang and Fa Xien went to learn Buddhist scriptures and contemporary studies, in its then famous Julian University. The mention of areas now in Pakistan, including Taxila can be found in Xuang Zang’s classical book “Journey to the West”. Xuang Zang had actually traveled to Taxila and his novel “Journey to the West” is a fictional account of some of his experiences and ideas that he learnt on the way.
The Gandhara region in northern Pakistan flourished from the period between 600-BC to 500 AD. Buddhism and Buddhist cultural traditions flourished in the region in this era. One of the most prized art forms of Pakistan ‘the Buddhist Art of Gandhara’ reached its peak during this time. Buddhism in Tibet is thought to be brought from Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan by sage guru Padma Sambhava (“Lotus-Born”) also known as the Second Buddha. Padma Sambhava is believed to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring region in the 8th century AD. In Tibet, he is also known as Padum or Guru Rinpoche (“Precious Guru”) or Lopon Rinpoche.
The strong bond of friendship between Pakistan and China today is thus not merely a phenomenon that emerged after its independence or the formation of the People’s Republic of China but has deep historic, geographical and cultural links. Pakistan and China have always supported each other in hours of need. Pakistan strongly affirms and recognizes only one China. It considers Tibet an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. Pakistan and China are united against the three evils of secessionism, extremism and terrorism. Both the countries have shown strong commitment to fully supporting each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The two countries have supported each other’s vital interests at the United Nations and other international forums.
China’s peaceful rise, its political and economic strength augurs well for Asia and the world. In Pakistan we take great pride in China’s development, prosperity and rising geostrategic influence. As China’s closest friend and ally we look forward to its engagement in economic and commercial support. This will complement to China’s policy of developing its Western regions. Pakistan shares its border with China’s Western Region and can contribute significantly to their development in a manner which is a “win-win” for both the countries.
When our diplomatic relations were still in very early stage the two countries timely reached their bilateral border agreement on the principle of mutual understanding, mutual accommodation and this lead to enormous trust built up between them. The two countries have thereafter enjoyed complete meeting of minds on various issues. Hundreds of Chinese workers sacrificed their lives to jointly build the Karakoram Highway (KKH) which is now an integral part of the New Land Silk Road and the Pakistan China Economic Corridor; which I shall elaborate later. It is also a towering example of Pakistan-China friendship and mutual cooperation.
Pakistan has fully ascribed to the landmark initiative of ‘One Belt One Road’ as announced by President Xi Jinping. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that starts from Southern China and goes Westward through Southeast Asia, Strait of Malaca, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe is a segment of this economic belt that President Xi has envisaged to revive, for common prosperity of the riparian states and their people. The other segment of this belt is the traditional land Silk Road which passes through North Western China, Xian in Shangxi province, Chongqing, Sichuan, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China and moves to Pakistan through the KKH in the Karakorum mountain range. Segments of land Silk Road also extends to Central Asia, Middle East and to Europe through Eurasian land bridge. After the Silk Road enters into Pakistan, it moves southwards passing through major cities of Islamabad, Lahore Multan, Larkana, Karachi and culminating at Gwadar.
The Port City of Gwadar is interestingly the convergence point of the Land and Maritime Silk roads. Its importance is thus unique and makes it the nodal point for both the roads. The significance of Gwadar port is no accident of history; in fact its economic geo-strategic location has been long realized. The Gwadar is a natural deep sea port which was developed with Chinese assistance. The Port’s management has been handed over to China Overseas Ports Holding Company on a long term lease. Numerous economic development works are being jointly undertaken by Pakistan and China at Gwadar.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Agreement marks a new high in the Pakistan China Strategic Economic and Commercial Partnership. It is actually a ‘game changer’ in the economic and commercial ties between the two countries and is a great tribute to the sagacity of the leadership and a major diplomatic triumph for both sides. The existing road link between Gwadar port in South Pakistan and Kashgar in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China would be upgraded. There are plans to eventually establish rail link between Pakistan and Kashgar. Industrial Parks/SEZs would be setup along the ‘Economic Corridor’ as well as in Gwadar. The Joint Working Group on Energy is active to setup power projects, coal-fired, thermal, solar, wind and hydropower generation through large, medium and small size dams. Pakistan China Agriculture Demonstration zones are also being set up.
The ‘One Belt One Road’ and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative reflects the Chinese leadership’s policy of inclusive development, shared prosperity and harmonious growth. This is based on the idea of mitigating the adversity of globalization and provides a comprehensive platform of sharing the fruits of progress. The initiative encompasses augmenting economic, trade, investment, academic, scientific, technological, cultural and people to people interactions among relevant countries.
Another major achievement and reason for an overwhelming response to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative is that it seeks to integrate individual countries’ developmental plans. In finalizing the proposal, individual countries are outlining their economic and social developmental priorities and effort is being made to assimilate these in the overall initiative. Furthermore, issues of global concern such as climate change, maritime disaster prevention, prevention of maritime, aqua culture are also being given priority. Existing bilateral and multilateral maritime cooperation regime would be utilized to built up a partnership and where circumstances necessitate new mechanism can also be evolved to best utilize maritime resources and support affiliated industries.
A very important aspect in this regard is the security of sea routes. Piracy, abduction and kidnapping on the seas has become a major problem for the international community particularly for the countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Pakistan and China are both partners in the international coalition in fighting piracy and affiliated crime at the seas and have often taken coordinated action in this regard. Many other countries of the Maritime Silk Road are also participating in anti-piracy action. A coordinated platform in this regard under the Maritime Silk Road initiative would be in the benefit of all the participating countries and enhance their cooperation in non-traditional security threats.
The phenomenon of globalization has seen bulk of trading being conducted through oceans. The need for better maritime connectivity in the 21st Century is, therefore of significant importance for smooth flow of cargo. Huge investment in infrastructure would, however, be required to achieve this. China is already engaged with countries of the region in improvement of their port facilities as well as the downstream communication infrastructure. This engagement in building infrastructure including information network would prove to be a defining initiative as many countries in South East Asia, South Asia and Africa are cash strapped and are unable to finance infrastructure and improvement.
A major focus of the initiative is infrastructure built up that is best explained by a Chinese idiom “Better Roads Lead to better Lives”. In order to contribute to the Asian connectivity a total of 21 countries have signed an MOU on establishing an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank” with an initial capital of US$ 50 billion. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also participated in the meeting and it is one of the signatories. Besides, at a meeting on strengthening connectivity and improving cooperation in China’s neighborhood, on the sidelines of APEC in November last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping committed US$ 40 billion for `the “New Silk Road Fund”. This Fund will support to Asian countries for carrying out infrastructure, industrial, financial and other projects. In President Xi’s own words the Fund is to “break the bottlenecks in Asian connectivity and building financial platform”. He emphasized that connectivity should be a three-way combination of infrastructure, institutions, and people-to-people exchanges leading to a five-way progress in policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade link, capital flow and understanding among people. President Xi significantly stated “Asian countries are like clusters of bright lanterns. Only when we link them together, we can light up the night sky on our continent”.
Another important aspect of the “one Belt One Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative is that it will create a greater understanding, sense of accommodation and trust among the beneficiary countries. The eventual lowering of mutual suspicions in some of the countries benefitting from common development and prosperity will create an enabling environment for resolving mutual security problems and other contentious issues. In a scenario where economic and developmental agenda takes the driving seat, many peripheral issues would be taken care of automatically. Even the major security issues and contentious problems such as land and maritime border settlement would also be eventually resolved between the countries along the Maritime Silk Road once their comfort level with each other would be strengthened due to good economic, commercial, investment relations and the enhanced people to people contacts; an outcome of the Silk Road initiative.
The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road would thus be a moderator or balancing force on the multiplier effect of economic globalization through promoting healthy competition amongst the countries. In the words of research scholar Liu Cigui of the China Institute of International Studies, I quote “China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk road is aimed at exploring the unique values and concepts of the ancient road, enriching it with new meaning for the present era and actively developing economic partnerships with countries situated along the route. Specifically, the proposal seeks to further integrate current cooperation in order to achieve positive effects” unquote.
It is thus a great tribute to China’s political and economic diplomacy that it has been able to create a broad consensus among more than 20 riparian states of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. On this initiative, countries from South East Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Mediterranean Europe have shown eagerness to support and actively participate in building this platform for common good. This is because each country sees huge “take away” for itself in joining this initiative, political issues notwithstanding. It can rightly be said that this initiative may eventually lead to mega inter-regional comprehensive partnership in future.
Media has an important role to play in optimum utilization of the “one belt one road” and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives. This can be done by creating awareness among people about their benefits. Pakistani media especially Pakistan-China Joint Media Friendship Association that is headed by me is actively engaged in spreading awareness about these initiatives, including the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. We are regularly covering news reports and publish special write-ups on the belt and road projects. We will join hands with Chinese media under our Association platform to further this noble objective.
Pakistan’s location is ideal to act as a channel for regional trade. It provides the best viable Ocean route to Western China and landlocked Central Asia states with its opening to the Arabian Sea. The cargo destined for Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern countries can reach merely in a day from Pakistani seaports, whereas it can reach Africa in a couple of days. Pakistan can therefore serve as ‘Energy Corridor’ for petroleum resources from Gulf region to China, at the same time minerals explored by China from Africa can also reach its mainland in shortest possible time through Pakistan. Pakistan has signed GSP Plus agreement with EU thus many of Pakistan’s products can be exported to Europe on zero or very low duty. With Western China emerging as the new hub of manufacturing industry, Pakistan would again be the best route for Chinese exports to outside world including Europe. Pakistan can also be an alternate safe route for Chinese cargo currently going through Strait of Malacca.
Establishment of economic and trade cooperation zones between China and Maritime Silk Road countries is an important aspect of the initiative. China and the riparian countries can cooperate in jointly building industrial parks. The focus of such parks could be setting up industries according to the needs of the individual countries as well as cooperation in maritime industry such as Ship Building, Aqua Culture, Tourism, Fisheries as well as marine economic demonstration zones. The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Pakistan offer an investment opportunity unprecedented in the entire region.
The Labour intensive industry and SMEs sector was once the backbone of China’s economy and contributed enormously in its development. However, due to rising land and labour costs, coupled with new stringent environment regulations the profitability of SMEs in China has reduced considerably. Chinese currency Renminbi has been continuously appreciating making its export more expensive to outside world. Further the Chinese government is now focused more on developing its high tech and services sector and SMEs have fallen from priority. Nonetheless, global demand for products produced by SMEs has not reduced and good money can still be made in this sector. Many Chinese SMEs are therefore looking for opportunities to relocate and invest abroad. Pakistan offers ideal opportunities for relocation of Chinese SMEs. Besides new plants, Pakistan’s laws and customs regulations allow shifting of most of the currently installed plants and machineries from other countries.
In short Pakistan is completely open and fully welcoming to its Chinese brethren. The extent of opportunities is limitless. The investment policy of government and people of Pakistan towards Chinese enterprises has always remained well disposed and consistently friendly no matter which government is in power. The most important advantage that the Chinese investors enjoy in Pakistan is the strong people to people bonding which is now an inseparable part of our popular ethos. Pakistan can serve as the launching pad for the Chinese enterprises wanting to “Go Global” as they can learn more quickly in a friendly environment and rectify their strategies without major losses. While in Pakistan, the Chinese businessmen can enjoy best of both;“homelike environment” as well as that of “the most honored guests”.
Remember every Chinese is considered a VIP in Pakistan
Long Live Pakistan-China Friendship