The Pakistan China Friendship Centre hosted a seminar on “Building China-Pakistan Community of Shared Destiny in the New Era” which aimed at bringing together the various think-tanks, scholars and opinion leaders to present their views on the subject.
This discussion was particularly organized keeping in mind the imminent visit of President Xi Jinping to Pakistan in September and thus sought to explore different dimensions of bilateral cooperation through different sessions and panels. People from both countries actively participated in the seminar. Sub-Forum on Pak-China Economic Corridor A sub-forum especially dedicated to “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” was held on the first day. The underlying theme of the session was that Pakistan has a crucial geo-strategic position with its links with South Asia, Central Asia, India and the Arabian Sea.
However, it does not have effective and well-developed trade routes. On the other hand, China does not have direct access to a deep sea port and faces many hindrances in their trade routes, e.g. the Strait of Mallaca is under American control. In the backdrop of these problems, the speakers put forth the idea that Pakistan China friendship, a long time tested friendship, could be further developed so that both countries could benefit from one another. Therefore, the Pakistan China Economic Corridor is a critical project in this effort.
Pakistan’s strategic location and its deep sea port of Gwadar is extremely useful for China because most of their oil comes from the Middle East, which faces impediments when it passes through the Strait of Mallaca. Moreover, the transportation cost is extremely high as the route is much longer- a much shorter and secure route, particularly for China’s oil imports would be available once the Gwadar-Kashnagar Highway is built as part of this project. Reciprocally, collaboration with China will greatly assist Pakistan in creating opportunities for economic growth and development, particularly in alleviating its acute energy crisis and attracting foreign investments.
Moreover, Pakistan will also benefit from the Chinese support in their hostility against India. Amb. Sohail Amin highlighted the benefits that this partnership will yield Pakistan given that China has always proven to be a very reliable partner because China is a very reliable partner. With assistance and cooperation from China, Gwadar as well as Balochistan as a whole can be completely transformed with Gwadar becoming a multi-cultural trade hub. In order to facilitate the Chinese effort and to develop Pakistan’s economy, the government has also taken a step to divide Pakistan into economic zones and so far eight zones have been made.Mr Amin also pointed out that due to the difficult terrain and landscapes, huge investments will be needed to transform Balochistan. Ms. Aiza Azam’s talk was on the Regional Impact of the PCEC and outlined the Strategic and Geopolitical impact that the Corridor would have on China, Pakistan, and the broader region. She touched upon geographical and socio-economic concerns, and also discussed the ramifications for regional integration, particularly in the context of the planned New Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road. Both countries are looking forward to the Pakistan China Economic Corridor and are hoping that everything goes as planned. This project promises a new hope for the people of Pakistan. Sub-Forum on Counterterrorism Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chairman Pakistan-China Institute, in the session on “Counterterrorism”, which he also chaired, stressed that terrorism has no religion, no ethnicity and no boundaries. The withdrawal of US and Nato Troops from Afghanistan and resurgence of Middle Eastern jihadist group ISIS, terrorist activities in Xinjiang has raised security concerns, explained the Senator. He stated that the effective military operation in North Waziristan against terrorist groups is one of the major steps towards counterterrorism in the region. Senator Mushahid Hussain also emphasized on the importance of Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has a counter terrorism department and provides a framework for regional cooperation and Pakistan’s interest in joining it for enhanced regional cooperation on security issues.
Mr. Wang Wei , Assistant of Director Foreign Policy Research, Shanghai Institute of International studies, was the first speaker of the session. Mr Wang commented that the overall situation is not optimistic which, he explained, is due to the instability in Afghanistan, rise of jihadist group ISIS, political upheaval in Central Asia, geopolitical competition between the U.S and Russia and the ambiguity of the U.S foreign policy and its effects on the situation. However, he felt that there were various opportunities present to solve the problem. According to him, enhanced regional cooperation against terrorism, positive Indo-Pak Relations, Pakistan China Economic Corridor and Silk Road economic belt would enhance peace and stability in the region. He believed that an Asian Security Concept could be used as a guide to strengthen security, raise common awareness on the issue of counterterrorism and cooperation would lead to a sustainable society. Dr.Maria Sultan, head of SASSI, the second speaker of the session stated that since the events of September 9/11, security dynamics changed significantly not just for United States but for the entire region including Pakistan. She believed that the use of asymmetrical force by various countries including the U.S and Iraq, alienation of the majority out of a major power structure and promoting a ‘minority complex” as in the case of Afghanistan have all led to an increase in terrorism. Another rising concern, she said, is the patronage of different groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which has been involved in various terrorist activities in Pakistan and China. According to her, the ‘heart of terrorism’ lies with two fundamental questions which is the money trail (sources of funding) and the weapons trail which needs to be examined to understand the situation completely. She contended that signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement by the Afghan Government is vital to Pakistan because it would allow the CIA to carry out counterinsurgency operations without a blowback. With respect to Pak-China friendship, she stressed that the time tested friendship has entered into a new phase of enhanced cooperation through the launch of vital projects such as the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. She felt that the overall stability of the region would be possible if the friendship is seen through the lens of strategic necessity.
Dr. Maria also stressed the need for effective border management as most terrorist activities are conducted due to its porous nature, a point seconded by the Chair.
The last speaker, Mr Zhu Zhongbo from CIIS, discussed the situation of Xinjiang Region which has been a victim of terrorist activities. He focused on the new international strategy on Sino Pak Anti-Terror Cooperation while also highlighting the efforts of UN Peace Keeping in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and stressing the need for such joint ventures of the Think Tanks of Pakistan and China to formulate strategies that contribute towards peace and stability of the entire region. A fruitful question and answer session followed the discussion that invited participation of the prominent members of media and academia. The session concluded with Senator Mushahid Hussain emphasizing on the dire need of an effective counterterrorism strategy to combat the menace of terrorism