BEIJING: Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz has said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), would reduce the distance between China and the Gulf, providing an important new trade route.
The CPEC agreement can lead to substantial job creation, the growth of industrial estates around the new routes, rising living standards and increased opportunity for millions of people, he said while addressing as a keynote speaker at the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit held at Nanning, China, to mark 15 years since the formation of the strategic partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations.
He said that Pakistan has been a major beneficiary of its rich and deep relationship with China.
“In recent years, the work being carried out under the BRI has become a game changer for Pakistan,” he added.
He said that the corridor is the latest installment in a long history of cooperation and friendship between our two countries. Pakistan has since long recognised the importance of its relationship with China, he added.
Giving some examples, he said that Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China and to establish formal diplomatic relations in 1951.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when China faced challenges from Western blockades, Pakistan gave it access to an air corridor.
Shaukat Aziz said that Pakistan facilitated Henry Kissinger’s historic trip to China, which transformed international relations by bringing two superpowers together for the first time in decades.
Since then, the bilateral relationship has gone from strength to strength. It has remained constant and unwavering despite changes of leadership on both sides, he added.
He said that China has been instrumental in helping Pakistan find its feet – In the early 1970s, China built the Karakoram Highway, which connects the two countries through the Khunjrab Pass and which is an artery for Pakistan.
A marvel of engineering, it reflects the desire of the two nations to be connected even through difficult terrain, he added.
In terms of diplomacy, he said, the Pakistan-China relationship is broad-based and rooted in mutual trust and understanding, and distinguished by its consistency.
“Most importantly, in my mind – is the fact Beijing does not attach strings to the help it gives its neighbour, like some do,” he added.
Shaukat Aziz said, “Never in my experience with the Chinese leadership did I see it seeking to meddle in our domestic affairs– or use bilateral relations to attack another power.”
While commenting on challenges to BRI, he said that all ambitious initiatives have their critics, and it is important to be aware of the challenges facing BRI in order to address them and maximise its potential.
The former prime minister suggested that full transparency must be encouraged as a key to making it a success.
Sharing from his experience in government and dealing with China, he said that it historically does not meddle with internal matters. However, certain steps can be taken to ward off this mistaken perception of BRI – countries should be encouraged to have ownership of their BRI projects and hiring more local labour will also help, added.
He said that protecting the environment is a challenge with any major infrastructure project. The rapid development could have a negative impact on the environment. It is important the initiative should be coupled with rigorous environmental and social assessments and each country develops it with sustainability in mind, he added.
He said that BRI offers the prospect of enlarged trade, production and prosperity – not only for its 60 participating countries but also for the entire global community.