As the world leaders, heads of states and governments, intellectuals, and the captains of global commerce and industry gathered in Beijing as part of the Belt and Road Forum, the agenda was to discuss ways and means to boost cooperation, build cooperative frameworks and share cooperation outcomes.
Launched in the backdrop of slow global economic recovery, new threats posed to economic globalisation, and greater calls for protectionism, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is an innovative and trailblazing concept.
We, in Pakistan, consider President Xi’s initiative not only bold and futuristic but also epic and historic. This vision has the potential to enhance ‘complementarity, and synergy of development strategies.’
President Xi’s Belt and Road vision has the potential to bring about lasting peace, stability and economic integration in the region. Rooted in the idea of ‘bread and butter’, it is aimed at winning the battle for hearts and minds by making the people shareholders in the journey of economic development. It is an effective recipe to neutralise and overcome the scourges of terrorism and extremism by empowering the communities.
The incorporation of OBOR in the United Nations Security Council resolution signals greater global ownership of the project and an affirmation of President Xi Jinping’s vision and his visionary leadership.
The importance and relevance of this vision of shared prosperity becomes all the more glaring when we look at it in the background of dire prospects for global development caused by failure of ‘neo-liberal economies’ and re-emergence of geo-political troubles in different parts of the world.
Historically, Belt and Road initiative seeks to restore and capitalise on the central role that ancient Silk Roads played in ensuring prosperity of the peoples across regions and continents.
Throughout history, Eurasia was criss-crossed with communication routes and paths of trade, which gradually linked up to form what are known today as the Silk Roads.
It was not just the merchandise and other commodities that were traded through the vast networks. Rather, they were used as a means for constant movement and mixing of populations, which resulted in transmission of knowledge, ideas, and different cultures.
This shows that Silk Roads were not only dynamic, and flexible but also had the capacity to adapt to demands of the times. Cultural and intellectual interaction proved to be a robust source of building bridges and generating fresh ideas that reflected the evolving realities of that era.
It is in this context that we look at Belt and Road vision as harbinger of a new era of connectivity and integration. The connectivity of people remains at the heart of creating a community of nations with a common destiny.
Allow me to say that President Xi’s unwavering advocacy of economic globalisation is based on the sure foundation of connectivity among the peoples. It is here that making the process of economic globalisation ‘more inclusive, more sustainable and more reinvigorated’ is so crucial to fully benefit from its outcome.
The economic disparity between developing South and developed North is a glaring reality. The real potential of OBOR lies in bridging the yawning gap between the North and South through win-win partnerships.
Hence, the scope of OBOR goes beyond being a network of global partnerships. It rather provides a fresh way of looking at and re-thinking regional and global cooperation by fostering greater people-to-people contact through enhanced cooperation in political, economic, and cultural fields.
We, in Pakistan, celebrate and own President Xi Jinping’s vision. Our people remain eternally grateful to President Xi for his historic gift of over $50 billion in the form of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Never in Pakistan’s 70-year-old history has any friendly country given such a development package even at much smaller scale than this one!
I can say it without any fear of contradiction that history has yet to record a parallel example of such a generosity, and large-heartedness not only in the region but also in the entire globe. To top it all, this mega development package comes with no strings attached, something unheard of in recent history.
As I speak here today, breathtaking progress is being made in the implementation of CPEC in Pakistan. With the highest level of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, the building blocks of CPEC are being installed.
CPEC is reshaping the geo-economic landscape and is a game changer not only for Pakistan but also the entire region. Consider the following:
Revival of New Silk Roads, which is at the heart of OBOR, ushers in a new era of hope, and a break of a new dawn.
OBOR expands the China Dream to the people living along the Silk Roads. It seeks their betterment and overall welfare.
OBOR is about shared prosperity, making peace and development the basis of interactions among peoples.
OBOR seeks to turn Silk Roads into new pathways to discover the humanity’s limitless potential for growth, and reconstruction.
Above all, OBOR through CPEC is Pakistan’s passport to a new level of human development and progress.
May I say that President Xi Jinping’s crusade against corruption has inspired me personally to take a leaf from his book! In the Punjab province, I have undertaken a similar fight against corruption under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with the result that transparency has become the hallmark of my government.
Given this background, it is noteworthy that both China and Pakistan have a tryst with a shared destiny. Our bonds go beyond a mere six-decade-long diplomatic relations.
China and Pakistan have a shared history of intellectual and economic growth. We have been great together for the past 2,500 years, when Taxila, the centre of Buddhism, was the home to the world’s first Buddhist University and indeed the next 2,500 will be even greater. OBOR will be the key to make it happen.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2017.