–PM Abbasi says regional connectivity and open trade are key to promoting tolerance and denying space to extremism
–Says Pakistan’s friendship with China is ‘bedrock of strategic stability’
–Says unprovoked Indian attacks on LoC and Working Boundary are ‘moving towards a dangerous escalation’
SANYA: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday said that regional connectivity, open trade and opportunities for economic growth are the keys to promote tolerance and deny space to extremism to take root in the region, as he urged India to desist from unprovoked ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary, which he said, are moving towards a dangerous escalation.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Boao economic forum in China’s Hainan province, Abbasi said that China-Pakistan relations had stood the test of time.
“In every sense, we are iron brothers. In our region, our friendship is the bedrock of strategic stability,” he said.
Abbasi said Pakistan was partnering with China to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity through enhanced regional connectivity. “Pakistan is central to the large-scale development that is shaping the future of a brave new Asia.”
He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was fast reaching fruition and termed it an excellent example of an open, coordinated, and inclusive development paradigm that benefitted all the stakeholders.
He said the development of the deep seaport of Gwadar, located at the southern tip of the economic corridor, was proceeding at a fast pace. On completion, it would not only serve as a transit and transhipment hub but would also become an economic nucleus, he added.
He also said CPEC would provide the shortest maritime and overland access to Western China, Central and South Asia, as well as the Middle East.
Speaking on the theme of “An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity”, the prime minister said that Asia is home to a majority of the world population and is the custodian of large reserves of natural resources. Due to this, Asia continues to demonstrate its growing centrality to the international economic order, he added.
Further, he said that Boao economic forum had emerged as a leading platform that was shaping international discourse on Asia. He said that in 2017, nearly one-third of the world’s economic growth came from the Asia-Pacific region, with China in the lead.
“As the Asian Century dawns, it is incumbent upon us to realise our real potential and rediscover the age-old wisdom that resides within the cultural fabric of Asia,” he remarked.
PM Abbasi also called for coordinated efforts to incorporate the enterprising spirit of the people living in the region and their common aspirations to lead better lives.
“Our collective efforts should include embracing structural reform, strengthening regional institutions, increasing connectivity, leveraging technology and investing in human capital,” he added.
Describing development and security as intrinsically indivisible, the prime minister said, “Only by spreading the dividends of open trade and shared innovation would we be able to promote tolerance and peace in the society and tighten our grip against the menace of extremism.” The China-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral framework was aimed at achieving these very objectives, he added.
He said that President Xi’s historic BRI project had the potential to deliver on the global level and would prove beneficial to all countries that were a part of this epic development model.
“This visionary and futuristic initiative is a win-win proposition aimed at bringing shared prosperity for all,” he added. He further said that Pakistan saw it as an initiative of tremendous impact which would shape the course of the 21st century.
Moreover, Abbasi said that supplemented by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, the BRI project had spawned innovative mechanisms for development funding, which was bridging the resource gap between the needs of the developing countries and the capabilities of the existing international financial institutions.
Talking about the early benefits of CPEC and BRI projects, PM Abbasi said, “We have already begun reaping the dividends of CPEC’s railways, roads and infrastructure projects. CPEC investment and its spin-off effects have generated thousands of jobs in Pakistan.”
He said that the establishment of several Special Economic Zones (SEZs) along with highways and motorways was integral to CPEC plans, adding that Pakistan was aiming to offer tailored incentive packages for the SEZs. “We are confident that these zones would catalyse the development of innovation-based industries in Pakistan.”
The prime minister further said that Pakistan’s economy was growing at around six per cent per annum, the highest in a decade. “Our capital markets have lately been upgraded from a frontier market to an emerging market. Over the medium-term, our growth rates are expected to surpass global averages. Hopefully, by 2050, we would be the world’s 15th largest economy.”
He also said that Pakistan was in favour of regional connectivity due to which it had supported trans-regional projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Ambassador Masood Khalid and senior officials also attended the event.
Separately, during a meeting with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the conference, Abbasi expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).
He emphasised that the office of the UN Secretary-General must play its part in highlighting Indian atrocities being inflicted upon Kashmiris in the IoK.
The prime minister apprised that deliberate and unprovoked ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary are resulting in the martyrdom of innocent civilians.
Stressing on Pakistan’s zero tolerance policy towards terrorism, PM Abbasi reiterated the country’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism.
The UN secretary-general acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts towards counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance to the Afghan refugees and the UN peacekeeping operations. He maintained that he had been advocating the need for a serious dialogue on the Kashmir issue.