Panel Discussion 01/11/2016
Mr. Zeng Xiangyu, Associate Professor of Institute of South Asian Studies, Sichuan University, and Dr. Ji Jingfeng, Expert on Pakistan Affairs of Sichuan University visited IPRI on July 29, 2016. Mr. Muhammad Munir Research Fellow, IPRI delivered a presentation on the subject “Pakistan-China Relations” and Mr. Khurram Abbas, Assistant Research Officer, IPRI presented his views on the subject of “Pakistan’s Efforts on Countering Terrorism and Extremism”. Chinese scholars presented their views on the ‘Water as a Security Challenge: China, India and Pakistan’ and ‘Xinjiang Opening Policy to Pakistan & Considerations for CPEC’ which was followed by the discussion between IPRI scholars and the visiting delegation.
Salient points discussed during the meeting are:
- The relations between China and Pakistan can be best described as promising and flourishing, turning out as a success story by meeting the requirement of changing situations.
- Over the years, this unique friendship between Pakistan and China has transformed into a strong strategic partnership with aspirations to have robust economic cooperation and ever increasing people to people contacts.
- Economy and security are two important components of Pak-China strategic relations. The rising profile of China’s economy has the potential to help Pakistan through trade and investment. Reportedly, China’s economy is going to become the world’s largest economy in the coming decade. According to IMF, China’s GDP has surpassed the United States in 2014 in terms of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), which makes China the world’s largest economy. It is expected that the Chinese economy could be twice in size of the United States by 2040. By 2020, it is believed that China’s global investment will reach upto US $ 5.2 trillion. Also, it is seen that the trade volume between China and Pakistan has also reached upto US $15 billion in the year 2015.
- In the area of security cooperation, both countries have agreed to step up a new mechanism for comprehensive counter-terrorism cooperation in order to ensure safety of their people. China has always appreciated Pakistan’s national resolve against terrorism. More than 80,000 civilian lives have been lost by Pakistan in the war against terror. Similarly, the war on terror has dented over US $107 billion of Pakistan’s economy.
- In the field of defence, China has extended invaluable cooperation by providing weapons and equipment and has been assisting Pakistan in developing a strong defence industrial capability such as joint production of JF-17 aircraft and its manufacturing facility. Both countries signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on counter terrorism and intelligence sharing back in 2005. In order to expand this cooperation, both countries have now signed another MoU concerning border management and building forensic and evidence preservation capacity.
- There exists a mutual consensus between the two countries for early operationalization of energy and infrastructure projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese Foreign Minister has already termed CPEC as a ‘flagship strategic cooperation project’.
- As stated, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a 15-year plan and will be completed in four phases. The Gawadar Port, Energy Projects, Transport and Communication Infrastructure and Industrial parks are the four pillars of this corridor. CPEC is not just a ‘one road’ project; it will be a network of multiple roads instead, connecting Gwadar to Kashgar. It is believed that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will help transform the region and act as a catalyst for economic integration by linking South, Central and Western Asia.
- CPEC can help promote economic development in the areas along the routes of corridor, maintain energy security and social stability, ensuring participation in the global process and marketization which is conducive to regional and global development.
- Challenges such as security and political concerns, social and cultural conflicts besides management and operational issues and ambitions of intervention by other countries require high-level bilateral political consultations in order to address these issues properly. Smooth completion of CPEC must be guaranteed through continuous political consultations in order to make this project a success.
- Pakistan and China should continue to support each other on their core national issues and remain each other’s dependable partners. In order to strengthen people-to-people contacts, there must be exchange and training visits of students, academicians, and professionals from different fields and media persons between the two countries on regular basis.
- China realizes Pakistan’s importance in the region, and especially so in the context of Afghanistan. It is an established fact that without Pakistan’s support, there can be no durable peace in Afghanistan. Similarly, geostrategic and geo-economic importance of Pakistan in the regional context, stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan-China economic corridor, countering extremism and terrorism, are some of the factors strengthening this bond. The vision of building China-Pakistan community of shared destiny will lead to the progress and prosperity of the people in Pakistan and China.
- Terrorism and extremism are a constant threat to the stability and peace of South Asia. Pakistan’s national resolve against terrorism is appreciated globally for its sacrifices and continuous efforts against this menace. Pakistan has employed two pronged strategy to fight terrorism i.e. by launching military operations and soft approach to engage local community through rigorous developments simultaneously.
- Operation Rah-e-Rast, Rah-e-Nijat and Zarb-e-Azb are the three operations that have been launched in Swat, South and North Waziristan respectively to clear terrorists’ pockets. Since June 2014, a considerable decrease in terrorists’ attacks has been noted across Pakistan. These operations have resulted in internal displacement of local people and their rehabilitation is a big challenge at the moment.
- There is another comprehensive plan being implemented which focuses on the development of the areas where military operations have been conducted in order to bring those at par with the rest of Pakistan. COAS, General Raheel Sharif has announced a “FATA Youth Package” which postulates recruitment of 14000 young men from FATA in Pakistan Army and free education to 1500 children will be provided in Army Public Schools and Colleges in all cantonments. Authorities are also working on plans for securing large scale overseas employment for youth from FATA. Pakistan Military has established Cadet Colleges at Wana and Spinkai along with technical institutes such as Waziristan Institute of Technical Education (WITE), Wana Institute of Technical Training (WITT) and Women Skill Development Centre (WSDC).
- In order to revive economic activities in those areas; authorities are introducing Interest Free Micro-Lending Activities and Interest Free Loans worth upto Rs. 50,000/- to the un-employed and skilled persons. Also, authorities are planning to establish Industrial Estates at different locations of FATA as well as construction of Bannu-Miranshah-Ghulam Khan Road. These Industrial Estates will be hub of many economic activities including Mineral Trading Yard, which will be operated on no-profit, no-loss basis where mineworkers will be allocated plots for stockpiling, processing, grading and showcasing their mineral products.
- As terrorism is pronounced a global threat, Pakistan considers that extremism should not be linked with any religion, nationality or civilization and requires a collective plan of action. Unresolved conflicts including the Kashmir dispute, Palestinian conflict, racial prejudice and discrimination, political marginalization, and exclusion from socio-economic development based on ethnicity, nationality, gender, and religion or beliefs are the major factors of terrorism and extremism.
- In the wake of regional development, there is a need to foresee the challenges and devise strategies to meet the requirements. The Chinese Scholars, while discussing the regional dynamics considered the water issue as a serious security challenge especially for China, India and Pakistan. Water security, water pollution and its wastage and inefficient use are considered to be the real challenges at the moment.
- There is an international dimension associated with the water security issues in South Asia, as it challenges international peace. In the India-China equation, India has hyper-concerns over Chinese Diversion of Brahmaputra and Chinese Hydro-Power Development (Dams) on Brahmaputra and Sengge Zangbo. Similarly, Chinese have concerns over Indian Hydro-Power Development near the Border and water utility in Tibet.
- While elaborating the India-Pakistan water equation, the correct implementation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is considered very vital. There must be a change of discourse i.e. from water sharing to effective and just implementation of the treaty. Besides, water development must be encouraged in both countries. Pakistan considers India’s hydro-power/navigation developments and ambitions of using water as a weapon to harm Pakistan in future.
- It can be said that real and severe water challenges lie inside China, India and Pakistan. Specifically in India-Pakistan equation, a major and tangible water security issue exists. And Pakistan, as a lower riparian, is more fragile in this regard. It is suggested that the water issues should be handled with pragmatism so that no one state has to bear the consequences of a major water conflict, as the three countries are: 1) nuclear powers, 2) neighbors of shared destiny, and 3) have big populations.
- Chinese scholars were apprehensive about the situation in Afghanistan vis-à-vis emerging threat of Daesh/ISIS. The presence of ISIS is quite evident in Afghanistan with approximate number of 3,500 members. ISIS has been successful in carrying out terrorists’ activities however; it will not be tolerated by the Afghan Government or Taliban either. ISIS does not have favorable grounds of operation in South Asia, as compared to the Middle East. ISIS’s primary ambition is to secure territory which it is unlikely to do in South Asia. However, it can be assumed that ISIS would change its strategy to gain territorial control seeing the changed regional dynamics of South Asia. As regional states are offering no space to ISIS, it is also expected that it would help to stop transnational terrorist organizations such as IMU and ETIM from extending their support to ISIS.
- On the issue of border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it was detailed that Pakistan after a long operation have cleared the area of North Waziristan and it does not want return of the terrorists from Afghanistan to these areas which requires regulated and strict border surveillance and monitoring. And this has been the reason behind the construction of Bab-e-Pakistan at Torkham crossing point. Pakistan expects timely cooperation from Afghanistan in this regard.
- The prevalent situation in FATA, consequent developments and future course of action also came under discussion. After clearing terrorists’ pockets in FATA, efforts are now underway to normalize the areas through rehabilitation and development work. It was said that Pakistan wants to bring FATA region at par with the rest of country through political, structural and social reforms. Pakistan would expect from its foreign partners especially China to invest in the social sector of FATA so as to help Pakistan in resettlement of TDPs and carrying out of other developmental tasks.