Sultan M Hali
CHINA hosted the second conference of the CICA non-governmental forum from June 28 to 29, 2017 at Beijing. Over 200 delegates from all over the world held a discourse on eight different roundtable conferences ranging from Spreading Asian Security Concept, Building Community of Common Destiny—the Role of the Media in Asian Security to Addressing Climate Change: Solutions in Asia. This scribe was invited as a participant and presented his views on “Belt and Road and sustainable Security”. Extracts from my speech are presented here. There’s an old Chinese saying: “If you bond together for profit, when the profits stop the relationship ends. If you bond together for power, when the power stops the relationship ends. Only when you bond together with a true heart can a relationship truly last.”
The Belt and Road Initiative, with its focus on five kinds of connectivity – policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade links, capital flow and understanding among peoples – bonds together 65 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa to work for a community of shared benefits, destiny and responsibility by enhancing mutual political trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness. The ancient Silk Road for many centuries was the most important land route linking Europe and Asia.
Any mention of the ancient Silk Road revives the stories of the travels of Marco Polo and Ibn-e-Battuta, one a Venetian and the other a Moroccan, who had made their fabled trips to China in the 14th century and brought back rich memories of their travels and chronicled the same in their travelogues for others to follow. During his first visit to Kazakhstan in 2013 President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which started the process of Belt and Road cooperation. Over the past four years, the Belt and Road Initiative has gradually developed from a proposal to actions, and from a concept to practice. In this context, the building of the Belt and Road brings unprecedented historic opportunities. Last month, at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the countries represented at the forum agreed to work more closely together to synergize development strategies for common development.
The advent of New Silk Road projects will act as a catalyst towards generating regional cooperation, building political flexibility, enhancing economic growth, offering trade diversifications, investing in transportation, mining and energy sectors. The new Silk Road focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to link China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.
The world and the region need common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. To combat the challenges to sustainable security, it is imperative to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism, drug trafficking and transnational organized crimes according to law and jointly safeguard the cyber security. We should put in place common security mechanisms for the Belt and Road cooperation to ensure the security of all the large cooperation projects undertaken under its umbrella. Common security means respecting and ensuring the security of each and every country. Security must be universal. We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should one seek the so-called absolute security of itself at the expense of the security of others.
Security must be equal. Every country has the equal right to participate in the security affairs of the region as well as the responsibility of upholding regional security. No country should attempt to dominate regional security affairs or infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of other countries. Security must be inclusive. We should turn Asia’s diversity and the differences among Asian countries into the energy and driving force for regional security cooperation. We should abide by the basic norms governing international relations such as respecting sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs, respect the social systems and development paths chosen by countries on their own, and fully respect and accommodate the legitimate security concerns of all parties.
Comprehensive security means upholding security in both traditional and non-traditional fields. Asia’s security challenges are extremely complicated, which include both hotspot and sensitive issues and ethnic and religious problems. Cooperative security means promoting the security of both individual countries and the region as a whole through dialogue and cooperation. Sustainable security implies that we need to focus on both development and security so that security would be durable. For most Asian countries, development means the greatest security and the master key to regional security issues.
Security challenges compromise mutual political trust. Firstly, there are the traditional security challenges including geopolitical conflicts and disputes over territorial and maritime rights. These issues have been complicated and intensified by the US strategy of rebalancing to Asia. Secondly, there are the non-traditional challenges, which include terrorism, separatist and extremism, and disputes over resources. Asia lacks an effective security organization. Asia’s security frameworks overlap and social instability is common throughout the region. The Belt and Road Initiative upholds the idea of security through development and development through security. Carried out smoothly, the initiative will surely boost common security and prosperity in the region by putting into practice a new security concept for Asia: common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.