Salient Points of Discussion
- A BFSU delegation headed by Professor Han Zhen visited Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on December 12, 2016. The purpose of their visit was to discuss prospects of improving Pak-China relations through people to people contact and academic exchanges.
- In his opening remarks, Dr. Fazal-ur-Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, IPRI said that 65 years of Pak-China friendship are consistently moving on an ascending trajectory and gaining strength with the passage of time. Bilateral trade has increased by $1 billion per year between the countries since 2000, but the balance of trade is in favour of China. Both countries enjoy robust military relations, but people to people contact has been little. Language has been a barrier in encouraging people to people exchanges.
- In his opening remarks, Professor Han Zhen, Chairman, BFSU Council, China reiterated the solid relations both, Pakistan and China enjoy. He agreed that there is very little people to people contact between the two countries, but the current Chinese government gives a lot of importance to cultural exchange. He opined that all One Belt One Road countries languages should be learned which would be instrumental in making this vision a success.
- A comprehensive presentation on CPEC was given by Mr. Muhammad Munir, Research Fellow, IPRI. As part of the presentation, he discussed the changing nature of international politics from geo-strategic to geo-economics and CPEC being part of this reality. He apprised the delegation of the main projects of CPEC, its different phases and the progress made so far. He reiterated that CPEC would act as a catalyst for economic integration by linking South, Central and Western Asia.
- The Chinese scholars were of the opinion that the development of Gwadar could transform it into the next Hong Kong or Shenzen. Pakistan will become a transit hub and will ensue economic activity.
- There is an urgent need for promoting people to people contact because that would be the base of the grand project of CPEC. It will also help in maintaining and sustaining the strong bond of mutual trust and friendship between China and Pakistan.
- The Chinese scholars expressed that western powers used military as a tool to interfere in the internal matters of other countries. On the other hand, China has progressed because of its policy of non-interference. Nonetheless, considering the current insecurity in the world, military cooperation between both countries should also be encouraged.
- The Chinese Scholars were of the view that there was an urgent need of positive and constructive publicity of CPEC which could be achieved by making the project more transparent. This would also help in erasing any misconceptions vis-à-vis CPEC.
- On being asked about their views on OBOR, IPRI scholars said that the OBOR initiative would be a paradigm of regional co-existence. It will encourage development, prosperity and security through regional connectivity. Pakistan realizes the importance of this initiative and is committed to making CPEC a success.
- IPRI scholars also emphasized on the lack of cultural understanding amongst the younger generation in both countries. Soft power holds immense importance in todays world, hence, cultural projects should be encouraged to shape opinions and views of the common people.
- China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a project based on trust and mutual interest between Pakistan and China. There is an urgent need for expansion of people to people contact as it would be the base of this grand project.
- Pak-China relations have now surpassed bilateralism and more interaction is needed to maintain and sustain this strong bond.
- There needs to be more positive and constructive publicity of CPEC. Misconceptions about the project should be erased by making it more transparent.
- Academic exchanges and joint research ventures should also be encouraged. The BSFU delegation suggested that scholars from both institutions should deliver guest lectures to better understand eachothers’ perspectives on issues of mutual interest.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speakers and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.