WITH the theme ‘An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of greater Prosperity’, Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 was held in Hainan province of China wherein Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan was a keynote speaker among other world leaders. During the stay, Prime Minister also met with President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China. The forum provided Pakistan an excellent opportunity to project as successful economic partner in the region with global context to promote the peace and harmony. This has also given a chance to Pakistan to showcase its progress achieved so far through implementing China Pakistan Economic Corridor and other regional connectivity projects. The Boao forum underscores the commitment to take more responsibility in global affairs with its Asian countries lead initiative to strengthen the cooperation with other parts of the world as well as the collaboration and exchanges among themselves.
The forum, established in 2001, was meant to promote Asian economic integration process so as to build a sustainable healthy growth of economies and strengthen the coordination and cooperation. Boao Forum is a platform where the world leaders from Asian region share insights on the most pressing issues faced by the Asians in particular and world at large. The forum initiated with 26 countries has grown into a most prestigious podium wherein this year 2000 distinguished guests including Presidents, Prime Ministers from 60 countries, business titans and entrepreneurs along with the UN Secretary General and other high representatives of International were present to boost the drive for economic integration processes for the shared destiny and prosperity in the future. According to analytics, the forum surpassed the importance of its European counterpart, the World Economic Forum where Boao Forum has been referred to as World Economic Forum of Asia. This year’s theme provided new impetus to create more diverse and balanced approaches towards the promotion of globalizations to provide assistance and new directions to the Asian states to achieve development goals. Since its inception, the forum has been able to provide innovation and open solutions and options for a greater prosperity, integration and inclusiveness to the world.
The forum of 2018 has remained significant since this has marked the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up of People’s Republic of China. The timings were perfect for President Xi Jinping to unveil the bold measures needed for the next stage of development after commencement of his second term in office. Chinese government is further liberalizing the economy and aligning itself with the contemporary global rules for trade, increased market access, expansion of services sector in order to create a welcoming environment for the investors. This year the forum focused on four main sub-thematic areas, namely globalization, Belt and Road Initiative, Open Asia and Innovation and Reform. During the forum, Chinese Flagship projects like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Belt and Road Initiatives including the Gwadar port, Chinese-European Freight trains are few of the highlights of the forum. The keynote address delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the opening ceremony was much anticipated and awaiting since the recent skirmishes between China and US over the trade relations. The address was reflective of President Xi’s outstanding leadership in steering Chinese economic might to next best level. The speech was also considered by the analysts as an attempt to defuse the mounting trade dispute with China. President Xi has reflected the Chinese policy of reconciliation and togetherness and opened the door for the potential collaboration with any country of the world including the US.
For Pakistan, the forum has entire new significance and openings for several important reasons. Pakistan not only enjoys deep rooted relations with China but has a very important place in the Chinese vision of a new era of prosperity and development at the regional and international level. Since China is looking to pursue its agenda of globalization and seeking cooperation in the economic, cultural and other fields focusing on international regimes, Pakistan has a very strategic place. With China Pakistan Economic Corridor in place and where the next phase of development of several important projects are on the way resulting in the larger connectivity, economic prosperity, Pakistan and China are putting hand in hand to lead the world with new dynamics of Peace through Economics. Pakistan is the driving force of this vision and has played a constructive role in the development of the vision into the reality. World has changed greatly and Pakistan needs to look out for the new options to play its constructive role in the Asian region to find allies and strengthen its presence for the economic and political clout and find the way forward with the other Asian countries.
It has to find peace with its insecurities to utilize the forums with vision and aptness that is required and order of the day. It is time that Pakistan needs to develop strategy and vision to sail smoothly in the murky waters of international politics. Boao Forum has developed into one of the largest gathering of the international leaders with shared visions and progress. The forum is providing a platform to realize the potential and concept of peace through economics and Asian countries looking towards the open, cooperatives relationship with other regional and international partner hence making peace, development and prosperity easier to achieve.
— The writer is President, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.