Chinese academics have called for improving cultural connectivity between China and Pakistan to strengthen trade and economic ties.
They highlighted the significance of Gandhara civilization and the potential of Gilgit-Baltistan’s cultural heritage that can be a source of attraction for the tourists from the neighbouring East Asian country.
They also emphasized the significance of developing Hunza into a cultural resort.
“Hunza valley serves as an important passage for travelers and traders moving across the region,” Professor Li Xiguang said while speaking at a roundtable on “Preserving and promoting cultural heritage along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” here on Monday.
Prof Xiguang, who serves as director Pakistan Study Centre at Tsinghua University and also the dean of School of Journalism at China South-Western University, said the valley was where Gandhara art began and flourished, and the area would be of immense interest to the Chinese tourists.
The event was organised by the Pakistan-China Institute in collaboration with China’s Tsinghua University and the Bolin Cultural Group to discuss bilateral relations of the two countries in the light of the economic corridor and ways to improve cultural connectivity between the two neighbours.
The participants were of the view that the economic goals of the project could only be achieved by strengthening and deepening cultural ties between the two countries.
Work on the multi-billion project is scheduled to complete by 2030. The project focuses on development of communication networks including roads, railways, fiber-optic cables, and oil and gas pipelines linking western China with Gwadar.
A 17-member delegation headed by Prof Xiguang is currently in the capital that has been following the path of One Belt, One Road initiative, — a Chinese development strategy and framework that focuses on connectivity and cooperation with Eurasian countries. The CPEC is a part of the strategy.
Prof Xiguang told the participants that the delegates realised the brilliance and cultural heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan while travelling through the region on the way to Peshawar.
“The journey from Kashgar to Taxila is around 1,700km and there are immense discoveries on the way such as interesting Chinese inscriptions on the rocks in Hunza and the Peshawar museum, which is a starting point for Gandhara art that is very new for Chinese artists,” said another delegate Liu Jing.
“Therefore, this kind of cultural heritage must be introduced to China,” she added.
“Pakistan is an Islamic state and in China various religions practiced. If these two countries can build such a strong relationship, it will be an example for the entire world,” said Sun Lizhou, while discussing the soft power of the corridor.
The participants also highlighted the various risks from the Chinese perspective. Zhen Gang, a member of the delegation, highlighted political instability, default or delays, corruption and hidden costs, and trade barriers, among risk factors.
He stressed on the need for ensuring security and managing risks.
Among others the roundtable was attended by faculty members of Quaid-i-Azam University, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Air University and the National College of Arts (NCA), Rawalpindi.
The participating faculty members expressed their institutes’ interest in offering Mandarin courses. They also called for promoting cultural exchange programmes between the two countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2015.