BEIJING: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative was open to all countries in the region and that it ‘must not be politicised’.
“Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicised,” he said in his address at the plenary session of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.
Nawaz called for building a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood by shunning mutual differences.
“It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations,” he said at the forum. “Peace and development go hand in hand, and nothing can pave the path for peace and security more than economic development achieved through regional collaboration.”
The premier added that OBOR could be a ‘powerful tool for overcoming terrorism and extremism’. “As OBOR is unfolding across continents, it is fostering inclusion, creating tolerance, and promoting acceptance of cultural diversity,” he said.
Terming China Pakistan’s close friend and trusted ally, Nawaz said his participation at the forum was to celebrate the remarkable success of OBOR. He added that Pakistan admired China’s vision and ingenuity in developing corridors across regions.
“This is indeed a gathering of great minds,” China’s President Xi Jinping said while addressing the forum attended by 29 heads of states – including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and 1,500 delegates.
“We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy,” he told the opening of the two-day gathering in Beijing. “The world must create conditions that promote open development and encourage the building of systems of fair, reasonable and transparent global trade and investment rules.”
Xi pledged to pump an extra $124 billion in funds into the initiative, calling it ‘a project of the century’ in a ‘world fraught with challenges’. Terming OBOR a ‘road for peace’, he cautioned that “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. He warned that “isolation results in backwardness”.
Praising Xi’s initiative, Putin warned that protectionism is becoming the norm. “The ideas of openness, trade freedom are rejected more and more, very often by those who were their supporters not so long ago,” he said.
Britain’s finance minister told the summit his country was a “natural partner” in the new Silk Road while White House adviser Matt Pottinger said the United States welcomed efforts by China to promote infrastructure connectivity.
India refused to send an official delegation to Beijing to express displeasure at running CPEC through Gilgit-Baltistan. “No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay, adding that there were concerns about host countries taking on ‘unsustainable debt’.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)