by Shafqat Ali
ISLAMABAD, July 8 (Gwadar Pro) – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the way forward as it connects the whole region, representatives from eight countries including Pakistan and China concluded Wednesday.
The Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) convened the first-ever Non-Governmental Online Conference on Belt and Road Initiative BRI, of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship.
The event was attended by eight countries including Pakistan, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
The meeting reached the consensus that the BRI is the way forward as it promotes regional connectivity based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, and mutual benefit while acclaiming CPEC as ‘BRI success story’.
They agreed that the coronavirus crisis had underlined the need for global interdependence to forge closer cooperation to tackle common challenges.
The propaganda about the so-called ‘Debt trap’ was rejected by participants as in the case of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, total debt from China was a very small percentage of what is owed to other countries or multilateral institutions.
They rejected the ‘New Cold War’, demonization, or stigmatizing any country using COVID19 as a political weapon or targeting BRI on geopolitical grounds.
Chairman Pakistan Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain, in his opening remarks, termed BRI as the biggest and most significant Diplomatic and Developmental initiative of the 21st century. He said that CPEC, as the flagship of BRI, was already a success story and has entered its second phase successfully. Energy and infrastructure projects have been completed on schedule, with 75,000 Pakistanis got jobs in BRI projects and 28,000 Pakistani students studying in China.
He also thanked China for support to Pakistan during the COVID-19 crisis and he mentioned the two resolutions passed by the Pakistan Senate, February 12 and May 14, in which the parliament of Pakistan appreciated China’s role and support.
Afghanistan’s former Ambassador to Pakistan and China, Janan Musazai, gave a specific five-point plan for Afghanistan’s role in BRI and he referred to CPEC as well, since Afghanistan can be a land bridge for connectivity and he said that China could facilitate to provide market access for BRI countries.
Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar referred to the respective role of their countries as part of BRI and how different projects were being initiated as well as the exchange of high-level visits between these countries and China.
Media leader, Shubha Shankar Kandel from Nepal also mentioned, how through BRI, landlocked countries can become land-linked countries, and he as well as Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage from Sri Lanka welcomed the role of BRI.
Prof. Jayanath also debunked the ‘Debt Trap’ theory regarding Sri Lanka citing facts and figures, that of Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt, only 10 percent was owed to China, He also warned that with about 120 warships in the Indian Ocean, it is becoming ‘the most militarized ocean in the world’. He also underlined the need for countries to have food and medicine security.
Former Chinese Vice Minister Ai Ping talked of people-people connectivity and he mentioned that in this regard during COVID 19 crisis, 60 NGOs of China organized 40 online events that aimed at sharing information and experiences based on mutual support.
Professor Huang Youyi and Kalyan Raj Sharma in their presentations also emphasized that any effort to stigmatize any people or culture or country should be rejected and there is a consensus that BRI is the way forward.
The conference was moderated by Executive Director, Pakistan-China Institute, Mustafa Hyder Sayed while the question and answer session were conducted by Director China Center for Legal Studies at LUMS, Professor Sikandar Shah.