By Ali Hassan
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday said that Pakistan-China enhanced economic cooperation is aimed to bring about prosperity in the region and is not against any other country. Speaking at a conference on “Emerging security order in Asia Pacific and its impacts on South Asia”, he lamented that it was unfortunate that some other countries in the region were trying to divert attention away from the importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“India’s loud objections to the CPEC and its attempts to gain support of elements hostile to Pakistan in the region are ill-advised…Cooperation between Pakistan and China is focused on economic development through connectivity and is not against any other country,” he maintained.
He said that Pakistan sought to establish and sustain long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with the global and regional players in Asia. Pakistan had to overcome many challenges in its bilateral ties with India in the past, he said. However, the recent deviation of India from all invitations to dialogue and peace belied its commitment to peace and harmony in the region. While Pakistan favoured the normalisation of its ties with India and it also expected reciprocity from India with respect and dignity, he added.
The CPEC is the only corridor which is connected to another corridor and will help provide landlocked countries with access to sea, he said, adding the massive investments in infrastructure envisaged under the project seek, inter alia, to tackle the menace of terrorism. “The size of the investment over the next 15 years when materialised will equal the cumulative gross FDI inflows in Pakistan since its creation,” he added.
Pakistan is located at the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia, he said, adding Pakistan is uniquely located to gain from stability and peace in Asia as a whole. These expectations are based on the CPEC, which is a mutually symbiotic project serving energy and transport requirements across South and Central Asia with the aim to link to shipping routes of the Arabian Sea, he added.
Aziz said that the strategic port of Gwadar is the hub around which the CPEC rotates. “Thus, ASEAN as a whole can be connected to the markets of Central and West Asia, adding it is another dimension to market competition and economic diversity in the region”, he added.
The advisor said that China had unveiled the plans to revive the ancient Silk Road by undertaking massive infrastructure projects and adding value to ports around the Silk Road. The China’s One Belt Road (OBOR) initiative, he said, had two components; the overland Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
The OBOR’s ambitious project coupled with the CPEC highlights the changing global power dynamics, in the context of much talked about “Asian Century”, he said. China, with its 20 percent share in world population and having surpassed the US in terms of purchasing power in 2014 is engaged in several diplomatic initiative to boost the economic growth of the region and create a win-win situation for all the participants, he added.
The adviser said that the geo-political and geo-strategic developments in the Asia-Pacific had been moving rapidly in the recent past. He pointed out that the US had brought greater focus on the region by launching the ‘Asia Pivot’ in 2011. The Pivot, renamed as ‘re-balance’ strengthens alliances with Japan, South Korea, India, ASEAN countries as well as Australia and the New Zealand, he added.
He further said that the greater interaction by the US with fora like Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (Apec), East Asia Summit (EAS) and more recently Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) had underlined the growing importance of these regional arrangements. He said that the geo-political realignment had two dimensions which enhance its significance; one is the growing cooperation between Russia and China to develop trade and energy connectivity in Eurasia and second, the creation of several important new institutions like SCO, BRICS Bank, Asia Infrastructure Bank and Silk Road Fund.
Aziz stated that Pakistan had the distinction of forging and maintaining strategic dialogue with both the US and China. “We have vibrant and robust relations with another power in the region, ie Russia. From Pakistan’s perspective, China together with the US and Russia, are important pillars in the newly emerging economic and security order of the region,” he added.
He said Pakistan believed that a resilient US- Pakistan partnership was vital to regional and global peace and would bolster the mutual commitment of the two countries to democracy. He said that Pakistan and the US were further expanding bilateral ties and would increase focus on trade and investment, education, science and technology; clean energy, climate change and regional integration.
He further said that Pakistan and the US also intended to focus upon accelerated macroeconomic cooperation through the Economic and Finance Working Group as a key element of the larger Strategic Dialogue Framework between the two countries. The US has also reaffirmed its support for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project, along with other measures to enhance regional economic connectivity and growth, he added.
He stated that regional forums like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the extended East Asia Summit (EAS), and the newly established ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), had demonstrated a remarkable capability to nimbly adapt to changing balance of power in the region. However, he asserted that territorial and border disputes in the region continued to have their strong bearing in the region and if left unresolved, politics of ‘re-balancing’ and the beginning of a ‘new cold war’, would continue to haunt the regional countries.