National Conference on Pakistan-China Economic Cooperation: Next Level
March 6, 2019
“In the wake of Pulwama attack, the Chinese provided sound counsel to both Pakistan and India for de-escalating the crisis. Pakistan regards China highly in its foreign policy and, now, the leadership of two countries is looking at a new vision, I would call it CPEC Plus, a new agenda of development and partnership.” This was stated by Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a national conference on Pakistan-China Economic Cooperation: Next Level, organized by China-Pakistan Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). H.E. Shah Mahmood Qureshi praised the institute for organizing the event on a subject which is high on development agenda and for providing policy input to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On behalf of Ambassador People’s Republic to China, H.E. Mr. Yao Jing, Mr. Wang Commercial Councilor at the Chinese, attended the occasion as a key note speaker. The distinguished session chairs included: DG, National Institute of Management, Dr. Safdar Sohail; Member of Senate, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Abdul Qayyum; and Mr. Akram Ghauri.
Mr. Wang expressed his gratitude and reiterated that the friendly perception is mutual. He informed the audience that Early Harvest Projects are near completion and, under the new leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the two countries are committed to complete the other projects as well.China and Pakistan are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will provide a lucrative market for Pakistan’s agro products. Also, CPEC is open for third parties and, together, we are looking forward to promoting the development of Pakistan and the region.
Earlier, in his introductory remarks, DG ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry extended a heartiest welcome to the esteemed audience which included eminent scholars, policy-makers, academicians, media persons, and other dignitaries. Lauding the Foreign Minister’s seasoned diplomacy in handling the crisis generated by Modi, he commented that, today, our foreign policy resonates with Quaid’s vision: Peace within and peace without.
During the three sessions of the conference, a wide-range of views were shared by the participants. There was a consensus among the panelists that there is a need to move beyond rhetorical jargons and fancy terms, instead true economic potential of CPEC should be realized by conducting extensive research and feasibility studies, complimenting SEZs with adequate infrastructure, learning from China’s policy of SMEs, contributing to global value chain, taking measures to alleviate poverty and adopting best practices in the realm of Blue Economy. It was agreed upon that, while keeping the Chinese thrust of neo-regional connectivity alive, a great deal of development dividends can be yielded. It was also highlighted that a harmonized political will and continuity of policy on CPEC will maximize the dividends.
However, it was emphasized that there is a dire need to engage with a broad-spectrum of regional and international actor. Focused empirical research, analyzing impacts of Pakistan’s hydropower potential and CPEC projects within Azad Jammu and Kashmir was also shared that emphasized the need to consider the environmental impact. Expert from Gilgit-Baltistan province added that CPEC tourism must be leveraged through a master-plan including pro-poor tourism, micro-enterprises and public diplomacy.
In a vote of thanks, Chairman BoG ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood said that all the ventures of CPEC should be open to the third parties but, of course, with due consideration. The bilateral cooperation which is being taken to the next level is embedded in strong Pak-China relations that have stood the test of time.
The speakers of the conference included: Dr. Fazal-ur-Rehman, University of Sargodha; Dr. Nadia Farooq, Asian Development Bank; Mr. Yasir Masood, CPEC Centre of Excellence, Islamabad; Mr. Abbas Hasan, ISSI; Dr. Huma Baqai, IBM, Karachi; Imran Shaukat,; Dr. Fida Muhammad Bazai, University of Balochistan, Quetta; Dr. Khalid Manzoor Butt, Government College University, Lahore; Dr. Samina Sabir, Azad Jammu and Kashmir University; Neelum Nigar, Research Fellow, CPSC; Dr. Saranjam Baig, Karakorum International University could not make it to the conference, his presentation was made by Ms. Neelum Nigar, Research Fellow, CPSC; and Syed Tanvir Abbas Jafri, COMSATS University.