Muhammad Ahmad Saad
THE Belt and Road project provides a wonderful opportunity to boost cooperation, build cooperative frameworks and share cooperation outcomes. Launched in the backdrop of slow global economic recovery, a host of new threats posed to economic globalization, and greater calls for protectionism, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is an innovative and trailblazing concept. This initiative is not only bold and futuristic but also epic and historic. This vision has the potential to enhance the complementarity and synergy of development strategies. It has the potential to bring about lasting peace, stability and economic integration in the region. Rooted in the idea of ‘bread and butter,’ it is aimed at winning the battle for hearts and minds by making the people shareholders in the journey of economic development. It is also an effective recipe to neutralize and overcome the scourges of terrorism and extremism by empowering the peoples of different regions.
The incorporation of OBOR in the United Nation’s Security Council resolution signals greater global ownership of the project and an affirmation of President Xi Jinping’s vision and his visionary leadership. The importance and relevance of this vision of shared prosperity become all the more glaring when we look at it in the background of dire prospects for global development caused by the failure of neoliberal economics and re-emergence of geopolitical troubles in different parts of the world.
Historically, Belt and Road initiative seeks to restore and capitalize on the central role that ancient Silk Roads played in ensuring the prosperity of the peoples across regions and continents. Throughout history, Eurasia was crisscrossed with communication routes and paths of trade, which gradually linked up to form what is known, today, as the Silk Roads. It was not just the merchandise and other commodities that were traded through the vast networks. Rather, they were used as the means for constant movement and mixing of populations, which resulted in the transmission of knowledge, ideas, and different cultures. This shows that Silk Roads were not only dynamic and flexible opportunities but also had the capacity to adapt to demands of the times.
Cultural and intellectual interaction proved to be a robust source of building bridges and generating fresh ideas that reflected the evolving realities of that era. It is in this context that Pakistan looks at Belt and Road vision as the harbinger of a new era of connectivity and integration. The connectivity of different people remains at the heart of creating a community of nations with a common destiny. President Xi’s unwavering advocacy of economic globalization is based on the sure foundation of connectivity among peoples. It is here that making the process of economic globalization ‘more inclusive, more sustainable and more reinvigorated’ is so crucial to fully benefit from its outcome.
The economic disparity between developing South and developed North is a glaring reality. The real potential of OBOR lies in bridging the yawning gap between the North and South through win-win partnerships. Hence, the scope of OBOR goes beyond being a network of global partnerships. It, rather, provides a fresh way of looking at and re-thinking regional and global cooperation by fostering greater people-to-people contact through enhanced cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields.
People of Pakistan remain grateful to President Xi for this gift of 62 billion dollars in the form of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Never in Pakistan’s 72-year history has any friendly country given such a development package! In fact, history has yet to record a parallel example of such generosity, and large-heartedness, not only in the region but also in the entire globe. To top it all, this mega development package comes with no strings attached, something unheard of in recent history.
It’s important to note that breathtaking progress is being made in the implementation of CPEC in Pakistan. With the highest level of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, the building blocks of CPEC are being installed. CPEC is reshaping the geo-economic landscape and is a game-changer, not only for Pakistan but also for the entire region. Consider the following: revival of new Silk Roads, which is at the heart of OBOR, ushers in a new era of hope and a break of a new dawn. OBOR expands the ‘China Dream’ to the people living along the Silk Roads. It seeks its betterment and overall welfare. OBOR is about shared prosperity, making peace and development the basis of interaction among peoples. OBOR seeks to turn Silk Roads into new pathways to discover humanity’s limitless potential for growth and reconstruction. Above all, OBOR through CPEC is Pakistan’s best passport to a new level of human development and progress.
President Xi Jinping’s crusade against corruption has also inspired the PTI-led government to fight against corruption under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan with the result that transparency has become the hallmark of incumbent PTI government. Given this background, it is noteworthy that both China and Pakistan have a tryst with a shared destiny. The bonds of friendship go beyond a mere six-decade long diplomatic relations. China and Pakistan also have a shared history of intellectual and economic growth. People of both the regions have been together for the past 2500 years, when Taxila, the centre of Buddhism, was the home to the world’s first Buddhist university and, indeed, the next 2500 years will also be even greater. The OBOR will be the key to make it happen.
(The writer is a freelancer and an MPhil scholar with a focus on South Asian politics)