–Beijing sees Kabul as a ‘natural partner’ of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
–Panelists discuss way forward on regional peace, development at 4th Trilateral Dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD: Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing on Monday urged Afghanistan to join the Belt & Road Initiative as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that Kabul was a “natural partner” of the mega-project.
“Afghanistan can also act as a bridge to help expand connectivity between East, South and Central Asian regions. It [Afghanistan] would benefit from joining CPEC and BRI as the projects aim at social and economic development in Pakistan and would provide more trade opportunities,” the Chinese envoy said while addressing the participants at the opening session of the 4th Trilateral Dialogue between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The event was hosted by Pakistan, China Institute (PCI) in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at a local hotel here.
PCI Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed opened the dialogue while Afghan envoy Omar Zakhilwal, PCI Executive Director Mustafa Haider Seyd, Tsinghua University Dean Prof Dr Li Xiguang, China Center for International Economic Exchanges Chief Economist Dr Chen Wenling and Afghan parliamentarian Mirwais Yasini were also present.
The Chinese ambassador said that all partners of peace would use their influence on fighting parties to return to the dialogue table. “China would also push the development process in war-torn Afghanistan as it is a facilitator of better dialogue and connection between Pakistan and Afghanistan. CPEC is not aimed against any country and rather it is purely an economic initiative aimed at the peaceful development of its neighbourhood,” he added.
Yao said an early peace and normalcy to Afghanistan was China’s objective and Pakistan was also doing a lot to bring peace back in its neighbouring country.
“The Pakistani government is working hard for a political settlement of the Afghan issue and China would cooperate with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve peace. China advocates for developing a neighbourhood of a shared future,” he added.
“Under the BRI, China wants peaceful development of all its neighbours,” Yao said, adding that China would take all necessary measures to achieve peace in Afghanistan.
The Chinese envoy said Beijing had partnered with Quadrilateral Dialogue Mechanism and also the SCO Contact Group for regional connectivity, peace and development in Afghanistan. “Other than these, there is Heart of Asia, CASA 1000 and TAPI etc. All these mechanisms are aimed at one goal – peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, on the occasion, said 21st century was the Asian Century with a decline of the West. “The Greater South Asia has emerged as a geo-economic concept, driven by economy and energy, roads and railways and ports and pipeline, and Pakistan is the hub of this connectivity due to CPEC.”
He added that CPEC was not only about Pakistan and China, rather it was about regional connectivity, and Afghanistan was a natural partner in CPEC’s expansion. He further stressed that the focus should be culture, corridors and connectivity rather than conflict or confrontation.
Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal was of the view that there was a lack of understanding in terms of development as the major bilateral relations as well as multilateral relationships between the countries were based on security rather than economic development.
“As an economist by profession, I believe that a line must be drawn between economics and politics in order for all partners to integrate in regional connectivity.”
The ambassador said that Afghanistan supported CPEC and its expansion into Afghanistan as it would further develop the country internally as well as strengthen its international relations within the region.
The 4th Trilateral Dialogue was inclusive of three detailed panel discussions namely “BRI/CPEC and Potential for Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, “Regional Connectivity through the Cultural Corridor” and “The Way Forward”.
The closing remarks at the occasion were provided by Mustafa Hyder Sayed, who said that the common thread from today’s dialogue was the need to connect culturally, enhance trade and engage in a constructive dialogue.
“We need to go beyond the prism of proxies and geopolitics and participate in connectivity and regional cooperation,” he said.