Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said the One Belt One Road (OBOR) concept was the most significant transformative initiative in recent human history, which was a harbinger of shared hopes, common prosperity and win-win cooperation among the people of the World.
Addressing the thematic session on ‘Connectivity of Think Tanks’ in Beijing, he said, “Through focus on connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, and connectivity of policy, trade and finance, we are observing a phenomenon which has few historical parallels. In a civilizational sense the true impact of the initiative would be in the realm of thoughts, ideas and cultures, and the think tanks were the breeding grounds for those elements, he said, adding the dialogue of think tanks was an extremely important, cross-cutting segment of the OBOR summit. He said Pakistan lauded the spirit of the OBOR initiative. The concept of shared partnerships, and voluntary cooperation were the basic principles of the Belt and Road vision.
Sartaj Aziz said China had created the necessary cooperative mechanisms and brought its intellectual, technological and financial resources to make it a reality. It was for the participating countries of the Forum to carry the initiative forward and play their due role in realizing its true potential. Through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said, Pakistan was privileged to be the first flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative.
He said the CPEC was making excellent progress. In its first phase, the focus was on building the requisite infrastructure and establishing connectivity. Simultaneously, several energy generation and distribution projects had been launched, while Gwadar port was being developed as the corner stone of OBOR.
Sartaj Aziz said the establishment of several special economic zones was an important part of the CPEC. The Chinese government, state-owned corporations and financial institutions were providing funds, technology and support to CPEC projects. Gas and oil terminals would distribute energy throughout Pakistan and pipelines could be set up for transporting oil and gas to western China. The important flagship project, he said, would lead to not just national but regional development through connectivity.
He said, “As we proceed forward in implementing these projects, the role of academia, scholars, experts and think tanks would become increasingly important. Connectivity of ideas through exchange of information, mutual learning and joint research, among the OBOR countries would be very useful in sharing experiences and lessons learned. Pakistan is willing to share its experiences with the think tanks community.”
Pakistani think tanks, he added, had already established deep rooted linkages with their counterparts in China. Those linkages had helped in mutual understanding of the vision of OBOR and focusing on complementaries between the people of the two countries. He said the think tanks of China and OBOR countries needed to come together and utilize their combined intellectual resources. “Through collective wisdom, we can explore following pivotal elements of OBOR and focus on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
Firstly, the revival of the ancient Silk Road, Sartaj said, had been a passionate dream for billions of people of Eurasia. President Xi Jinping’s vision had brought realization to that dream. The quest to rediscover and revive the bonds at the level of the people had solid historical and civilizational underpinnings. He said the think tanks needed to further explore the historical and cultural linkages and find ways to link today’s realities with them.
He said, “Secondly, the OBOR initiative comes at a time when we are witnessing major changes on a global scale. At this juncture, the evolving negative considerations of geo-politics, anti-globalization sentiments, protectionist barriers to the free movement of people and goods, ethno-centric nationalism and xenophobia have to be countered.”
Thirdly, he said, for the vast majority of developing states, the OBOR signified a new wave of globalization propelled by the East, which was infused by Asian values. However, that win-win cooperation was intended to lead to a harmonious development of both the East and the West. The think tanks could identify common objective and priorities between the East and the West, he added.
Sartaj said fourthly, a broad spectrum of opportunities was offered by the OBOR. Exploring the entire range of possibilities was a task that think tanks must fulfill. “Be it trade, finance, infrastructure, or technology; the potential is immense. It is up to us to explore this potential.”
Fifthly, national development policies and priorities of all the participating countries, he said, would naturally be different, keeping in view national circumstances and local conditions. The think tanks can explore how the OBOR policy initiatives and national development policies can be harmonized, he added.
The Advisor said sixthly, broader oversight of the initiative by the think tanks would also be helpful in making the requisite adjustments in its course, which, in turn, would require identification of obstacles and any adverse consequence of different projects. Constructive criticism could lead to improvement and amelioration of such initiatives. The OBOR was a long-term initiative and the think tanks would be pivotal in ensuring the continuous evolution of its basic principle and positive impact in the light of actual experience, he added.
Sartaj said the people-to-people exchange through think tanks could provide opportunities for cross-cultural linkages, improved understanding of each other’s concerns, core interests, sensitivities and then finding common grounds. On the concrete way forward, he proposed an annual gathering of selected think tanks of OBOR countries. Such an annual gathering, bringing together academia, experts, scholars and practitioners from every walk of life, would offer an immense opportunity for shared introspection and collective wisdom. “Thus, we can develop a global pool of experts, who can help all of us to realize the full potential of OBOR,” he added.
He emphasized that in today’s inter-connected world, focus should be on leaving behind a legacy of connectivity, shared destiny and win-win cooperation for the coming generations. He congratulated the Chinese government for its leadership and most of all the people of China, for their efforts in laying the foundation of such a legacy for mankind.