Collectively Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Creating Common Destiny
Building and Developing Together to Realize Common Prosperity

By Babar Sultan Makhdoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 9, 2015
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The longstanding friendship between Pakistan and China is today regarded as a hallmark of good neighborly and friendly relations between countries. This relationship is based on mutual respect, equality and common benefit, support to each other's matters of fundamental interest, extending sincere help in times of need and noninterference in each other's internal affairs. The friendship between the two countries has stood steadfast despite the vicissitudes in domestic, regional and international environment on political, economic and strategic scenarios. It is therefore quite apt to say that Pakistan and China have a shared vision and destiny of a world based on common prosperity, development and peace. The two countries are joined by rivers and mountains, history and culture, and remain with each other through thick and thin.

The longevity of these relations dates back to antiquity, when fabled Silk Road which ran parallel to the present Karakorum Highway (KKH); served as a conduit for commerce as well as exchange of ideas and knowledge. It was at Taxila, a town near present Pakistan capital Islamabad that the famous Chinese scholars Xuan Zang and Fa Xian went to learn Buddhist scriptures and contemporary studies, in its then famous Julian University.

Pakistan has fully ascribed to the landmark of “Belt and Road” initiative as enunciated by President Xi Jinping. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road that starts from Southern China and goes Westward through Southeast Asia, Strait of Malacca, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe is a segment of this economic belt that President Xi has envisaged to revive, for common prosperity of the riparian states and their people. The other segment of this belt is the traditional land Silk Road which passes through Northwestern China, Xi'an in Shanxi Province, Chongqing, Sichuan, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China and moves to Pakistan through the KKH in the Karakorum mountain range. Segments of land Silk Road also extends to Central Asia, Middle East and to Europe through Eurasian land bridge. After the Silk Road enters into Pakistan, it moves southwards passing through major cities of Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Larkana, Karachi and culminating at Gwadar.

The Port City of Gwadar is interestingly the convergence point of the Land and Maritime Silk Roads. Its importance is thus unique and makes it the nodal point for both the roads. The significance of Gwadar port is no accident of history; in fact its economic geo-strategic location has been long realized. Gwadar is a natural deep sea port which was developed with Chinese assistance. The Port's management has been handed over to China Overseas Port Holding Company on a long term lease. Numerous economic development works are being jointly undertaken by Pakistan and China in Gwadar.

In order to complement and formalize the idea of one belt one road and the economic commitments between Pakistan and China, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang presented the concept of “China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)” during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. Later, the same year during the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif's visit to China on July 2-8, the two sides signed the long term agreement to develop “China Pakistan Economic Corridor”.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Agreement marks a new high in the Pakistan China Strategic Economic and Commercial Partnership. It is actually a “game changer” in the economic and commercial ties between the two countries and is a great tribute to the sagacity of the leadership and a major diplomatic triumph for both sides. The existing road link between Gwadar port in South Pakistan and Kashgar in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China would be upgraded. There are plans to eventually establish rail link between Pakistan and Kashgar. Industrial Parks/SEZs would be set up along the “Economic Corridor” as well as in Gwadar. The Joint Working Group on Energy is active to set up power projects, coal-fired, thermal, solar, wind and hydropower generation through large, medium and small size dams. Pakistan China Agriculture Demonstration zones are also being set up.

A major achievement and reason for an overwhelming response to the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road initiative is that it seeks to integrate individual countries' developmental plans. In finalizing the proposal, individual countries are outlining their economic and social developmental priorities and effort is being made to assimilate these in the overall initiative. Furthermore, issues of global concerns, such as climate change and maritime disaster prevention, are also being given priority. Existing bilateral and multilateral maritime cooperation regime would be utilized to build up a partnership and the circumstances that necessitate new mechanism can also be evolved to best utilize maritime resources and support affiliated industries.

The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road would thus be a moderator or balancing force on the multiplier effect of economic globalization through promoting healthy competition amongst the countries. It is thus a great tribute to China political and economic diplomacy that it has been able to create a broad consensus among more than 20 riparian states of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. On this initiative, countries from South East Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Mediterranean Europe have shown eagerness to support and actively participate in building this platform for common good. This is because each country sees huge “opportunities” for itself in joining this initiative, political issues notwithstanding. It can rightly be said that this initiative may eventually lead to mega inter-regional comprehensive partnership in future.

The author has 25 years of experience as a working journalist. He has interviewed many prominent world personalities including Heads of States, Heads of Governments, Ministers, politicians, businessmen, sportsmen and prominent International showbiz personalities. He covered numerous global events including the United Nations General Assembly Sessions, SCO Conferences, SAARC Summits, Pak-India Summits, Boao Forum, Davos Forum, Gulf War, International Energy Forum, Pak-China Business Forums, World Cup Cricket Tournaments, World Cup Hockey Tournaments, Asian Games, and Barcelona Olympics etc. As Chairman of Pak-China Media Friendship Association, Babar visited China and exchanged with Chinese counterparts many times.

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