ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says greater efforts are being made for optimal exploitation of Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
He was addressing an International Maritime Symposium, under the auspices of Bahria University, in Islamabad today with the theme of “Impact of Belt and Road Initiative on Geo-Economics of Indian Ocean Region”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that exclusive economic zone is almost 40% of the country’s land mass but it remained undeveloped. He said its development is critical as almost 80% of the trade volume in the world is done by sea.
He said Pakistan is heavily dependent on sea-lanes and therefore, there is need to improve access and connectivity to see for our own benefit and the region.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Indian Ocean Region is one of the important hubs of global energy and trade. Pakistan today has an opportunity to exploit its access to see to exploit the trade volume of the region. He said its geographical position not only help provide access for Western China but to the whole of Central Asia.
The Prime Minister recalled that talks with Afghanistan mainly focused on security in the past but now a lot of discussion is taking place for access to sea for Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. He said whenever we visit Central Asian states they demonstrate keen interest in accessing Gwadar and Karachi ports.
He said we can realize our trade and economic potential by developing our infrastructure and this is being done under the CPEC.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan is building 1700 kilometer of 6-lane motorways besides 1200 kilometer of good quality roads which would improve access and connectivity with salutary impact on regional trade.
He said Pakistan hopes to have almost 6% GDP growth this year and this could go up to 9% with the development of infrastructure as well as energy and communication sectors.
About security concerns, he said Pakistan Navy is cognizant of them and is developing its capability to counter any challenge. He also expressed the confidence that capabilities of navy would also help mitigate security challenges of the maritime access for the whole region.
The Prime Minister said Gwadar and Iranian port of Chahbahar are not in competition but would complement each other.
In his welcome address, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said despite numerous challenges, Pakistan Navy has formulated a robust strategy to safeguard national maritime interests.
He said the Government is fully alive to Pakistan Navy’s needs and providing essential support in meeting the emerging security imperatives.
The Naval Chief said the Prime Minister has approved setting up of a modern shipyard at Gwadar which would contribute significantly to Pakistan’s economy. He said they were also trying to establish another shipyard along Pakistani coast in the private sector.
He said the Government is taking all possible measures to develop maritime sector and in line with its policy the Ministry of Ports and Shipping has been renamed as Ministry of Maritime Affairs to broaden its scope.
Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi expressed the confidence that BRI and CPEC would help realize the goal of shared prosperity of the region.
Director Centre for Pakistan Studies of Peking University Prof. Tang Mengsheng said CPEC would contribute a lot in socio-economic development of Pakistan and China.
He said CPEC is not a dream but a reality and governments and people of the two countries are committed to implement it at an accelerated pace for mutual benefit.
He said China wants to see Pakistan a strong and developed country.
President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan said Pakistan has assumed a unique position as it connects BRI to other parts of the globe through its flagship project of CPEC.
He said CPEC give China direct land access to Indian Ocean region and it propels Pakistan into a position of centrality and pre-eminence.
Sardar Masood Khan said BRI would give a fresh impetus to global growth, create new supply chains in Indian Ocean and pave the way for reducing poverty and income inequalities.
The AJK President proposed that Pakistan should prepare a comprehensive and long term policy on Indian Ocean. He said by opting for Gwadar Port and CPEC, Pakistan has chosen to become a regional economic hub and a maritime power. He said Pakistan needs to build larger naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.