PM urges revival of Silk Road to ensure regional prosperity

BOAO: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said the revival of Silk Road can prove an an important instrument for the economic growth and prosperity of the region.

In his remarks at the session titled ‘Reviving the Silk Road – A dialogue with Asian Leaders’ at the Boao Forum for Asia 2014, the Prime Minister said Pakistan, as a country located at the southern edge of the New Silk Road, recognizes that political and economic dividends of this vision were unparalleled, both in scale and potential.

The Prime Minister appreciated China’s President Xi Jinping for proposing a visionary concept of the New Silk Road last year and renewing everyone’s interest in the subject.

Sharif said reviving the Silk Road in today’s world of passports, visas and intricate tariff manuals, required ingenuity both in policy formulation and policy application.

He mentioned that the policy could be based upon four elements including coordination to ensure mutually beneficial endeavors in peaceful and secure settings; introduction of cohesive laws and regulations regarding movement of humans and merchandize, taxation policies and tariff/non-tariff barriers; regional infrastructure for better connectivity by building better transport networks and convertibility of currencies and uniformity in financial and banking sectors.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan’s geographical location supplements the potential of the Silk Road and enhances the scope of its revival.

“Our geography links China and the New Silk Road to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. This is the linear dimension of our relevance with the Silk Road,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan is at the confluence of China, the Eurasian land-bridge and the Middle East which enables it to be enroute to a three-pronged economic corridor between China, Central Asia and the Middle East.

This is the triangular dimension of our relevance with the Silk Road, he added.

He mentioned that Pakistan’s long coastline also makes the ports of Karachi and Gwadar as a strategic transit on the maritime Silk Road.

He said Pakistan and China are active partners in reviving the concept of Silk Road and added that work, in this regard, had already commenced since the two new governments assumed office in respective countries last year.

The Prime Minister said the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is the southern extension of the New Silk Road and in the course of the last ten months, the two countries had achieved a broad consensus on planning various infrastructure and energy projects under the project of the Economic Corridor.

He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an instrument for alleviating poverty for millions of people by providing alternative sources of livelihood.

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan realized that partnership in the Silk Road would entail a robust infrastructure, regular energy supply and improved overall governance and for this reason, had positioned itself to fulfill these yardsticks.

He mentioned that the government in the first year in office, had already sought to improve governance and undertaken sound economic policies. Besides, the liabilities in the electricity sector were cleared last year and the acute energy shortfall was reduced.

He said the government had embarked upon an economic rebuilding plan and also presented an austerity budget by cutting wasteful and unnecessary expenditure, abolished discretionary grants and minimized subsides.

The Prime Minister mentioned that to increase the business footprint in the country, the government had a deregulation plan in place that includes a greater role of private equity in business.

He said that Pakistan ranks the highest in the region in terms of ease of business. Investing in Pakistan is like revival of Silk Road, he added.

He welcomed finances and expertise in Pakistan from China and from wider Asia, both in public and private sectors and assured full security to human and financial resources invested in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Sharif stressed that to achieve an efficient Silk Road, there was a need to invest in peace and mutually benefiting diplomacy.

“We must strengthen bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, to settle outstanding disputes, through peaceful means,” he said.

He said Pakistan believed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with its diverse membership and strong institutional framework, was well positioned to promote peace and security, in the wider neighbourhood.

He said the SCO was playing an important role in settling disputes and managing conflicts which would help revive the Silk Road.

Yang Jiechi, State Councilor of China and Zhang Guobao, Chairman Advisory Board, National Energy Commission of China also spoke on the occasion.