Local media urged to remove negative misconceptions about CPEC(China Pakistan Economic Corridor)

ISLAMABAD: As the government has failed to remove many misconceptions about the multibillion-dollar project – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the local media has been urged to remove the myths and negative propaganda against the corridor, which is considered as a game changer for the country and region alike.

Acting Ambassador of People’s Republic of China, Zhao Lijan, while addressing a seminar on “CPEC and Role of Media” organized by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) here at a local hotel in Islamabad on Monday, shared six major misconceptions on CPEC(China Pakistan Economic Corridor) which are being discussed in media and other forums. On one of the interesting misconceptions about the project – that Chinese prisoners were actually working on different projects in Pakistan, the Chinese ambassador, while rejecting the theory, claimed that the misconception might have been created due to the security arrangements made for the workers whose movements in Pakistan are restricted for security purposes.

Another misconception, he said, was related to air pollution being caused by the coal-fired power plants. He said the plants installed in Pakistan were new and pollution free. There were over 1000 similar plants operational in China.

Talking about another misconception being circulated in the media, he says, is related to the debt and high loan interests to Chinese companies under the CPEC. He said the debt under CPEC was merely 10 per cent of the total debt of Pakistan. At present, the amount for the CPEC projects under construction or completed in $19 billion for which the financing arrangements are divided into four categories including investments, gratuitous aid provided by the Chinese side, interests free loan and preferential buyer credit. For investment, the main source of funds are commercial bank loans by investors, and not by the Pakistani government. The repayment method of such an investment is mainly based on the operating income after the completion of the projects and will not increase the debt burden. Most of the energy projects under CPEC use this approach. The interest rate of the loans provided by the Chinese banks for energy projects under CPEC is around 6 per cent.

According to the ambassador, for gratuitous aid, there is no pressure on the Pakistani side to pay back.  For preferential buyers’ credit, the total amount under CPEC is $6 billion, a 31.6 per cent of the total cost of the corridor project. According to the Export-Import Bank of China, the peak value of Pakistan’s repayment of will occur in 2024, with only $527 million whereas the total amount to be paid back is $7.4 billion.

In reply to a query, he said, that corruption is needed to be controlled while ensuring transparency in government affairs. However, he said, a complete eradication of corruption is not possible in any country.

Earlier, addressing the seminar, renowned economist and former Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain also rejected the impression that China is entrapping Pakistan by giving expensive loans and credits for projects of dubious economic value. According to him, the said apprehensions are totally misplaced and based on conjectures, not on actual facts. Out of the total commitment of $50 billion, 70 per cent or $35 billion would be coming to Pakistan in the form of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The Chinese companies are following the established IPP policy of the Government which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investors under which they are allowed 17 per cent return on equity in US dollar terms. Infrastructure projects would be financed by long-term concessional loans averaging an interest rate of per cent nt and grants. It is estimated that the total annual outflows on both these counts would average between 2.5 to 3 billion dollars annually.

Dr Ishrat said the energy crisis had crippled the economy as even in the PPP governmen,t exports had registered $25 billion, which came down to $20 billion in the last years of the PMLN government. The losses to national income due to energy shortages amounted to $6 billion annually. However, he hoped, as these shortages are eased and efficiency gains are realized the national income would rise at least by $6-7 billion per annum. Resumption of a higher growth rate of 6 to 7 per cent would not only suffice to repay these obligations comfortably but also have ample resources available for new investment. Exports are now beginning to grow in double digits. It is estimated that a 14 per cent growth rate of exports would be able to finance the additional foreign exchange burden of all the repayments on account of CPEC.

“What we need is to get the maximum benefit of the CPEC projects, concessional loan facilities to increase exports. Once exports are increased the issue of balance of payment will be resolved. We are already paying back the loan worth $6 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added.

Addressing the seminar, Minister of Information Barrister Ali Zafar said claimed that it was the failure of governments to share information about CPEC with the public which created many confusion and misconceptions. As per Article 19A of the constitution, every citizen of the country has the right to get information. All process of contracts, financial transactions and projects related matters should be made public to avoid any doubt.

He suggested making a legal framework or body to speedily handle disputes and issues related to CPEC under one umbrella. An overseeing body may also monitor progress on CPEC projects.

Renowned senior journalist and President of CPNE Arif Nizami, while addressing the seminar said there was some misconception regarding CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and local media has failed to educate the people about how the mega project will benefit them.

Unfortunately, for local media, especially electronic media, CPEC is a boring subject to discuss and focus on. The media in Pakistan also gives little importance to economic issues. Both print and electronic media should play its role to remove the misconception about CPEC.

He said that China has a different concept of freedom of media/press. Chinese media should also be encouraged and facilitated to visit Pakistan paving way for more interaction of media.

Addressing the seminar, Defence Analyst and writer, Ikram Sehgal said that there were many myths regarding the corridor project. The misconceptions like Pakistan could be a colony of China, Beijing will exploit resources in Balochistan, transnational terrorism will be encouraged, Chinese workers will replace locals, local business will be harmed etc are all based on wrong conceptions propagated mostly by enemies.

China has never colonised any country. “Even in the present situation regional realignment, Pakistan should maintain its neutrality,” Sehgal suggested

SOURCE:https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/06/25/local-media-urged-to-remove-negative-misconceptions-about-cpec/

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SECURING THE CPEC (Threats from India)

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation. The CPEC is located at the hub of the BRI and is a pivotal component of its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It can fetch unprecedented and unconditional prosperity and peace dividends for the entire South and Central Asian region and scores of the 60 plus BRI countries. As part of the CPEC, the Gwadar port can offer indirect benefits to many of the 32 littoral states of the Indian Ocean that may not be part of the BRI. Regrettably, some powers are opposing this progress for their own perverted and trivial reasons. They are creating overt and covert hurdles in its implementation and are displaying competitive, rather than cooperative reactions. Rival projects like the US sponsored  ‘New Silk Road package’,  in partnership with India and Afghanistan and the ‘Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor’ proposed by India and Japan, have  been prompted by the CPEC. Similarly, Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar is intended to contest with growth of Gwadar port.  China and Pakistan have rightly not shown any aversion to the competition, though India has already started misusing the Chabahar project for aiding, abetting and sponsoring RAW terrorist networks to disrupt the CPEC. Of greater concern are the numerous efforts and international conspiracies, engineered by India and supported by others, to sabotage the CPEC. Indian hostile activities in Pakistan intensified within days of the inauguration of the CPEC shipments. Attempts include numerous Indian terrorist activities in Balochistan in collaboration with Afghanistan that are mentioned in the confessions of Commander Jhadav.

Frequent disinformation campaigns about CPEC have also simultaneously been launched inside Pakistan. All these highly provocative actions are part of a well thought and integrated, international conspiracy that is   tantamount to an undeclared war, as they pose a direct threat to the national interests of not only China and Pakistan but many other countries that could benefit from the BRI and the CPEC.  US support to India on the matter, under this environment is very short sighted indeed.

Though challenges to CPEC appear daunting but they can be surmounted. The Pakistani Foreign Office has taken note of some of more serious developments and has initiated appropriate action to condemn and reject hostile measures against the CPEC, calling them as an infringement of the UN Charter and impingement of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, this has been done somewhat cautiously and at a rather low level, so far. There   is a need to concomitantly and officially communicate our concerns, at the highest level, to the heads of the foreign governments that are opposing the CPEC. This should be done jointly and severally by Pakistan and China, in consultation with the other countries that are part of the BRI.  Our response should include manifold collective remedies and counteractions, to compel the antagonists of the CPEC to desist from hurting our economic interests. The BRI has recently been written into China’s constitution. Being a vital interest, the Pakistani government must also provide constitutional protection to the CPEC. Negative propaganda against the CPEC must be dispelled through Sino-Pak state and private media, ensuring transparency of planning, as well as execution and arranging seminars and workshops.

While the government has raised special security force for the protection of the CPEC, this must be augmented with a Pak-China CPEC intelligence organization, satellitemonitoring and enhanced maritime collaboration. Another multinational organization, led by China, must be formed to respond to the threats posed to the BRI, through coordinated political, diplomatic, economic, security and surveillance measures.

Despite heavy odds, many CPEC projects are already up and running. This is a clear message about the resilience and determination of the Chinese and the Pakistani people, who are committed to its success, not only for their own benefit, but also for others to diversify and develop their economies. This should inspire everyone to support, rather than oppose the CPEC.

SOURCE:https://pakobserver.net/securing-the-cpec-2/

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CPEC to help PR improve performance: PM

Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk Tuesday said that with CPEC, there is a huge potential and scope for Pakistan Railways to further improve its performance and increase its share both in passenger as well as freight transportation sector by offer quality services to its customers.

During a briefing about the performance of Pakistan Railway, the prime minister directed that a comprehensive plan would be worked out to overcome the existing challenges for the consideration of the incoming elected government.

The briefing was attended by Minister for Railways Roshan Khursheed Bharucha, Secretary to the PM Suhail Aamir, Secretary Railways Muhammad Javed Anwar and senior officers of Ministry of Railways. The prime minister was informed that as a result of right mix in service the passenger share in Railways has increased from 13percent in 2013 to 31 percent in 2017.

Pakistan Railways recorded a revenue of Rs50 billion in 2017-18 as compared to revenue of Rs15.5 billion in 2011-12.

The prime minister was briefed about organizational structure, rail network, past performance and the future development strategy under National Vision 2025 in the Railways sector.

The prime minister was also briefed about the new business plan and various initiatives taken, both in freight as well as passenger transportation sector, for the revival of Railways and increasing its revenues. The prime minister was also briefed about the progress made in various rail network extension projects under the CPEC.  It was informed that Main Line-1 (ML-1) project from Karachi to Havelian was being upgraded as Early Harvest Project under the CPEC.

It was informed that feasibility study for upgradation of ML-2 (Kotri-Attock) project has also been completed. Similarly, feasibility studies were in progress on extension of ML-2 (Gwadar-Basima-Jacobabad and Basima-Quetta) and extension of ML-3 (Quetta-Bostan-Zhob-DI Khan-Kotlajam) projects.

The prime minister was also apprised about the challenges faced by the organisation including the issue of pension liabilities that contributed to 34 percent of the total expenditure of the organisation.

The prime minister appreciated the performance of Pakistan Railways especially various initiatives taken under the strategic business plan.

SOURCE:https://nation.com.pk/20-Jun-2018/cpec-to-help-pr-improve-performance-pm

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CPEC: the governance challenges ahead — II

Pakistan faces both internal and external security threats. The monster of modern terrorism, however, is a post-9/11 phenomenon. When General-cum-President Pervez Musharraf supported the US-led War on Terror (WoT) against the Taliban, the latter, in reaction, started targeting the Pakistani society and state. Resultantly, more than thirty thousand civilians and law enforcement officials have lost their lives in multiple acts of terrorism since 2003. Nevertheless, the overall number of causalities have dropped since 2014 owing to some legislative and executive measures taken by the government, but suicide bombers are still a real threat. Finding opportunity, any terrorist organization can strike. The country’s security apparatuses are the most tempting targets, while minorities are the most vulnerable.

Most of the people who died in terror attacks were ordinary Pakistani citizens, both Muslims and non-Muslims. But foreigners have also been targeted. For example, an American national was kidnapped and later killed in Karachi some years ago. Iranians have also been targeted.

Similarly, the Islamic State (IS) abducted, as per media reports, two Chinese nationals who were Christian missionaries, near Quetta in 2017. The couple was eventually killed. This seemed like an attempt on the part of the terrorists to malign China-Pakistan relations, in general, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, in particular. Moreover, another Chinese national was also killed in Karachi, reportedly by extortionists. The deceased Chinese citizen, according to Pakistani officials, was working for a non-CPEC firm called Cosco Shipping Lines Pak (Pvt) Ltd, which has been doing business in Pakistan since the early 1990s. If analysed objectively, in both cases, the Chinese nationals were residing or working in Pakistan in their private capacity. Furthermore, they were not related to CPEC in any capacity. Noticeably, the missionary couple and the private-firm employee were provided due security by the government. However, in both incidents, the Chinese citizens seemed to have violated security protocols, which cost them their lives.

The overall number of terror-related casualties has dropped since 2014 owing to some legislative and executive measures taken by the government, but suicide bombers are still a real threat. Finding opportunity, any terrorist organisation can strike

Recently there have also been reports of some Chinese citizens involved in financial crimes such as ATM skimming. Such cases remain under investigation. In addition, in April 2018, a number of Chinese workers were filmed assaulting some personnel of the Punjab police in the Noor Pur camp (Khanewal, Punjab). Video footage of this shameful incident went viral on social media. At one point during the scuffle, the country project manager of the concerned company stood arrogantly on the bonnet of the police van with the Pakistani flag visible beside his shoes — this was not the first such incident.

Here, it is pertinent to mention that on December 8, 2017, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad issued a press release that read “the Chinese embassy has received some information that the security of the Chinese institutions and personnel in Pakistan might be threatened.  This Embassy would make it clear that Pakistan is a friendly country to China. We appreciate that Pakistan has attached much importance to the security of the Chinese institutions and personnel”. The preceding is a reflection of China’s growing security concerns vis-à-vis its CPEC related citizens. Even, the number of non-CPEC related Chinese nationals — working, for example, as journalists — have crossed fifteen thousands. Physical security of the Chinese residing and working in Pakistan has, therefore, emerged as a legitimate concern, which the Pakistani authorities need to take into policy consideration.

However, despite the mentioned cases of Chinese citizens being killed by terrorists, the fact of the matter is that CPEC has, thus far, not been targeted by a major terrorist attack on its infrastructure, machinery and work force. However, this should not discourage or devalue the significance of security enhancement on the part of Pakistani authorities. Rather, impending security threats ought to be responded to diligently. This will be easier said than done because it raises questions on the legal, institutional and administrative capacity of the government.

For example, is it the prerogative of the local, provincial, regional or federal government to provide material and physical security to, for example, transportation infrastructure (or to the proposed Special Economic Zones) and the Chinese work force and machinery involved at different stages of construction? If it is a combined arrangement on the part of the provincial and federal government, who will be responsible for implementing the security measures? Which government and at what level, will bear the financial and logistical cost of security? Moreover, if the provision of security is the responsibility of the provincial government, will the province be able to manage it logistically and institutionally? Significantly, will the Chinese companies and human resource be satisfied with the security arrangements provided by Pakistani authorities? These are some major security challenges that Pakistan will have to deal with for the sake of CPEC, which has been termed by both China and Pakistan, as a crucial component of contemporary bilateral relations. I will provide policy input, in this respect, in the upcoming articles in this series.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/255100/cpec-the-governance-challenges-ahead-ii/

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CPEC will help Pakistan progress only if we band together as a country

It has been five years since an aggressive development plan was initiated in Pakistan. What I am talking about is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the pilot project of BRI. The ambitious road network is scheduled to be completed by 2030.

The first five years are gone. The first phase is successfully accomplished with the completion of several infrastructure and energy projects. Everybody knows that no development project can be completed without considering these two sectors.

Today, Pakistan is on its way to accelerated economic growth. This is a splendid achievement for the government. Just a few years ago, such progress would have sounded ludicrous to Pakistanis.

The second phase of the project is expected to focus on special economic zones (SEZs) in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army played a pivotal role in ensuring security for this mega development project. Every single person in the country is trying to relate themselves to the benefits and outcomes of CPEC. But there is a dire need to understand the nature of collective benefit for the country.

“Today, Pakistan is on its way to accelerated economic growth. This is a splendid achievement. Just a few years ago, such progress would have sounded ludicrous to Pakistanis”

Unfortunately, nationalism has been lacking most of the times whenever it is needed. Nationalism has always been seen only during war times. But when it comes to peacetime and development processes, it becomes irrelevant to the nation. People from all walks of life focus only on their particular vested interests.

CPEC has come up with multiple opportunities and diversified goals. Therefore, the nation needs to be united until the end of this project to get most out of it.

Some of the SEZs planned for the country include, Rashakai Economic Zone (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), China Special Economic Zone (Dhabeji, Sindh), Bostan Industrial Zone (Balochistan), Allama Iqbal Industrial City (Faisalabad, Punjab), ICT Model Industrial Zone (Islamabad), Industrial Park on Pakistan Steel Mills Land at Port Qasim (Karachi), Special Economic Zone (Mirpur, AJK), Mohmand Marble City (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and Moqpondass SEZ (Gilgit-Baltistan). The project will add a lot more to the economy of Pakistan, including several industries that are sure to boost our economic stability, rate of employment, GDP, and more. CPEC includes a plethora of industrial projects – many of which are needed for a transitional economy to succeed.

Some of the projects have already started, and some need more planning and will be completed later on. The amount of foreign investment coming into the country had been on the rise since 2010.However, since CPEC began in 2014, it has been increasing at a faster rate. This change can be seen below:

It is very important to spread word among the masses about the importance of CPEC. We must come together as a nation now so that we can build a stronger Pakistan.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/254333/cpec-will-help-pakistan-progress-only-if-we-band-together-as-a-country/

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‘CPEC is not a gift’: Professor Jia Yu at the CPEC 2018 Summit

Pakistan should not take CPEC for granted, writes Dr. Jia Yu. Both public and private sectors must take ownership of the opportunities.

 

The economic relations between the two countries have been phenomenal, especially since the turn of the century. Early economic cooperation was based on political and security interests, like Karakoram Highway, nuclear capability, arms trade etc. Also, it was focussed on energy and mining, but there is now a need for diversification. Pakistan has to take advantage of China’s rise on the global scene. There is a tendency towards having even better economic relations based on market forces and there is a lot of under-exploited potentials.

When it comes to win-win cooperation, of course, there is a lot at stake for both countries. Pakistan’s interests lie in promoting growth, private sector investment, employment, exports, technology and transfer of skills as well as in the relocation of Chinese firms. China’s interests lie in overseas production bases, new export markets, energy cooperation, and its need for production capacity relocation.

A successful execution of CPEC will ensure economic progress and stability for both the countries, particularly along the border region.

The two countries signed the FTA in 2006 which came into effect a year later. The FTAs play a major role in the general tendency of increasing trade. Surprisingly, the trade has been relatively low compared to the other neighbors (India, Vietnam, Philippines etc.). And there is a large and widening trade imbalance that needs to be worked on.

There has been a considerable increase in FDI since 2014 which is a positive sign for both China and Pakistan. The main FDI sectors by priority are: power, construction, financial services, and communication. There is, however, very little FDI in the light manufacturing sector.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a $900 billion investment, with finance channels targeting green development. It connects more than 60 countries, 60pc of the global population, 30pc of global GDP, and 35pc of global trade.

CPEC, a central link of BRI, cuts 10,000 miles of shipping by sea, and connects ports from Shanghai to Africa and Europe through Gwadar.

PAKISTAN AND CPEC

If things work out smoothly, Pakistan could use the FDI in its power and transport infrastructure and then in the manufacturing sector with the experience of leveraging SEZs to unlock this trio’s potential for rapid gains in job-rich industrialization. This can be done without unrealistic pre-requirements as the work to lay the foundations for industrialization has already begun.

The potentials are outlined below along with policy options needed to convert them into actions. At a regional level, Pakistan has been growing steadily in terms of GDP per capita since 2010, according to the World Bank. Investors are very keen to a growing economy. Consistent growth of purchasing power (GDP per capita) really matters for domestic consumption; therefore the growth rate must be maintained to catch up with competitors.

Pakistan is one of the world’s largest reservoirs of human capital and has a tremendous potential consumer base. In 2016, the country was home to 193,203,476 people, being the world’s 6th most populous country. World Economic Forum estimates that it will be among the top five populous countries in the world by 2060.

However, a large population is necessary but not sufficient to attract investors. The population has to be equipped with adequate skills to meet industrialization needs. An effort is also needed to attract global buyers.

Thirdly, China and Pakistan have long hailed each other as “all-weather friends”, or “iron brothers” as close as “lips and teeth” in the words of The Economist. There is already solid trust between the two countries, but the Pakistani officials need to visit China more often to convince the private investors for investment opportunities in Pakistan.

The CPEC will improve road, air, sea, and energy infrastructure. It will ensure land, sea and air security. It will enhance trade and investment facilitation and will establish free trade areas that meet high standards, maintain closer economic ties, and deepen political trust. Also, it will enhance cultural exchanges and promote mutual understanding, peace, and friendship between the people of the two countries.

Having said that, the CPEC should not be considered just a ‘gift’ from China, but the Pakistani government should also establish an FDI Advisory Board that shall promote the new image of the country. This includes visiting China more often and ensuring that investors understand the opportunities and benefits available under the CPEC.

Besides, according to the State Bank of Pakistan in November 2017, the country received net FDI worth $207 million out of which $206 million came from China. Potential investors pay significant attention to first movers, other Chinese investors may follow and eventually stay in Pakistan if the government helps the pioneers to be successful.

In terms of binding constraints, a study case of Malaysia estimates that FDI can effectively contribute to growth if it is at least 3.14pc of GDP. Pakistan should be able to compete. This requires overcoming the binding constraints by addressing security issues and risks, hard infrastructure challenges, especially SEZ-specific constraints like energy, roads to SEZs etc. Soft infrastructure challenges include corruption, rule of the law, coordination among institutions, inadequate capacity and cultural biases. Absorption capacity can be adjusted by setting yearly realistic targets of FDI amount.

There are six steps to identify the right industries, as narrated by Prof. Justin Lin. They include identifying countries with consistent growth, with GDP per capita three times as Pakistan’s or was at the same level as Pakistan 30 years ago.

Next comes investigating the existing private investment in those target industries and encourage its development by leasing the market regulations. Attracting global investors into the target industries which lack existing domestic private investment is the third step, followed by paying attention to new enterprises and supporting innovation in the target industries.

Establishing and developing SEZs to eliminate entering barriers, attracting foreign investment, and encouraging industrial cluster. And, finally, providing policy incentives for the first movers, including tax reduction, foreign exchange access, etc.

THE WAY FORWARD

Development can start from ‘low-hanging fruit’ through SEZs. The government should attract first movers to invest and help the pioneers succeed.

CPEC should not be taken for granted. A proactive and systematic approach is needed for attracting investors, together with strong market factors.

Despite long-term and solid trust at the government level, more mutual dialogues and exchanges need to be enhanced in the private sector. Let the peoples get to understand each other.

CPEC and SEZs are open for all investors, including those from other countries beyond China.

The writer is a professor at the Institute of New Structural Economics (INSE), Peking University, China.

SOURCE: https://www.dawn.com/news/1409721

 

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India refuses to endorse CPEC at SCO summit

India was the only country on Sunday not to endorse a high-profile Chinese project at the end of the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation SCO summit in Qingdao even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that New Delhi’s priority was connectivity with the neighborhood and between the SCO countries.

All remaining seven members of the SCO summit bloc supported the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which is part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a multi-billion inter-continental connectivity mission. The 17-page joint Qingdao declaration said all other seven member countries had endorsed the project and agreed to work towards implementing it. India was not expected to endorse the BRI in the Qingdao declaration which was released soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi speech at the plenary session.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the flagship projects of the BRI. India has stayed away from the BRI – the only SCO country to be opposed to it – saying the CPEC violates its territorial integrity.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi said India supports connectivity projects that are inclusive, transparent and respect territorial sovereignty.

Speaking at the plenary session of the summit, Modi said India’s priority was connectivity with the neighborhood and between the SCO summit countries in the region. “We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighborhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” he said and emphasized the need for inclusiveness and transparency in connectivity projects to be successful.

Published in Daily Times, June 11th 2018.

SOURCE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/252018/india-refuses-to-endorse-cpec-at-sco-summit/

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At SCO summit, India again says ‘no’ to Belt and Road

India on Sunday again said “no” to China’s Belt and Road project, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain merely shook hands on the final day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao city.

India, which participated at the Chinese-led security bloc for the first time after being inducted into the grouping last year, did not figure in the list of rest of the member states endorsing Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in the joint declaration.

 Earlier in the day, Modi made it clear that New Delhi was all for connectivity projects but could not compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India strongly opposes Beijing’s multi-billion dollar project, which aims to connect Asia with Europe through a network of roads, ports and sea lanes.

New Delhi’s objection is to the key artery of the project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which goes through the Kashmir governed by Pakistan and claimed by India.

“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighborhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” Modi said.

“We welcome any new connectivity project, which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent, and respects a country’s sovereignty and regional integrity,” he said at one of the sessions at the Summit.

This is one of the contentious issues between India and China but both seem to have decided not to let it affect other aspects of bilateral ties.

Like India, Pakistan also became a member of the SCO in 2017 and attended the event for the first time.

“It was noted that the SCO had asserted itself as a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization whose potential had grown remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan,” the 17-page Qingdao declaration said.

With the inclusion of India and Pakistan, the grouping has expanded into an 8-member bloc. China, Russia, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are SCO’s other members.

Modi, who had bilaterals with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders, just had a handshake with the Pakistan head of state.

The ties between the two countries have plummeted following attacks at Indian Army bases and continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bloc vowed to fight terrorism.

“The SCO’s coordinated policy of waging an effective fight against challenges and threats to security remains unchanged. Practical interaction in this area will be facilitated by the adopted Programme of Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Opposing Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism for 2019-21.”

During the summit, Modi and Xi had a “substantive” meeting on Saturday. India struck major deals like the export of rice and Indian pharmaceutical products to China.

The bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2020 was another important announcement by both sides.

The Kyrgyz Republic will take over the Presidency of the organization. The next meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of State will be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.

SOURCE: http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/world/at-sco-summit-india-again-says-no-to-belt-and-road/287805.html

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Colorful cultural exchanges between China and Pakistan

China and Pakistan are not only friendly neighbours but also two major ancient civilizations that have maintained close ties in cultural exchanges and mutual learning.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1951, the two countries have made great efforts to promote cultural exchanges and cooperation. The Cultural Cooperation Agreement between China and Pakistan was signed in March 1965. During her official visit to China in February 2018, Marriyum Aurangzeb, federal minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage, signed the Executive Programme of the Cultural Agreement for 2018-2022 with Luo Shugang, minister of Culture and Tourism of China, which outlines the overall framework for China-Pak cultural exchanges and cooperation in the next five years.

In 2018, the CPEC Cultural Caravan was implemented with the support of the Ministry of Information of Pakistan. Artists from China and Pakistan carried out a series of exchange activities along the ancient Silk Road and CPEC construction sites. This further strengthened China-Pak friendship and promoted the mutual understanding of our two peoples. Apart from that, artists from the two countries have visited each other frequently so as to learn from each other and enhance the oriental civilization jointly.

The Pakistani government attaches importance to the development of broadcasting and film industry. The programme has made it clear that the two sides will strengthen the mutual cooperation in the technology fields of radio broadcasting, films and television among the state radio, film and television organizations of both the countries. China and Pakistan are maintaining close communication and coordination and actively expanding exchanges and cooperation in this area. The film industry is booming in both China and Pakistan. China will adopt measures to further cooperate with Pakistan in this field, including introducing Pakistani films to Chinese film festivals, importing Pakistani films into Chinese cinema lines, and promoting the film companies of the two countries to jointly produce film and television programs.

The writer is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Pakistan

SOURCE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/247261/colourful-cultural-exchanges-between-china-and-pakistan/ 

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CPEC — a solution to the Kashmir issue?

In December 2017, China offered the Afghan government a chance to become part of their ambitious $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At the same time, they made it clear that the project was not in any way directed against India and that no third party should be concerned with its progress. This came after India complained that the corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)in Pakistan-administered Kashmir which is a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

After negotiating a border stand-off at Doklam Plateau (China-Bhutan disputed border) both India and China indicated that they wanted to build peaceful relations by solving their bilateral disputes through diplomacy instead of armed conflicts. Pakistan wants to follow the same path, and open a dialogue with India in order for CPEC to develop without any problems. However, another solution could be that the government of Pakistan could instead refer to the people of this region. The Kashmiris and the people of GB could also be brought into the loop. They could finally have the plebiscite that was promised these people by the UNCIP resolution so many years ago.  But this will never happen.

Pakistan fears the outcome of the plebiscite. Why do you think Pakistan has been so reluctant to grant GB provincial status? The usual response from Islamabad is that its due to its disputed nature yet the reality is quite different.

After the 18th amendment was passed under Asif Ali Zardari’s government, provinces were granted a semblance of autonomy. However, if GB was given provincial status, it would control its own economic and administrative polices and could claim a larger share of the benefits from CPEC. Another reason was their small population size of only two million people. If they were granted provincial status then the people of FATA, Southern Punjab, the Potohar region and Karachi could also end up demanding provincial status and full autonomy. Thus, by issuing Order 2018, Islamabad has made certain that the centre continues to enjoy the economic benefits and administrative powers that would’ve instead been under the control of the people of GB themselves.

In case of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), Islamabad amended the Interim Act of 1974. The legislative, monetary and administrative status of the Kashmir Council has been reduced to an advisory role, with all powers reverted to the office of the prime minister. By reinforcing Section 7 of the Interim Act, and adding an additional clause, the government has essentially restricted the freedom movement in AJK and disillusioned the locals.

In October 2017, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani categorically said that his country would join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) only if Islamabad allows connectivity between India and Afghanistan. Mentioning sovereignty issues raised by India, Ghani also warned that if Afghanistan was not given transit access to Wagah and Attari for trade with India via Pakistan, then Kabul would also restrict Islamabad’s access to central Asia. When Pakistan and India both reluctant to sit down for a civilised talk, China decided to use backdoor channels to open a dialogue with India and convince them to cooperate with Pakistan. As a result, an Indian delegation was spotted at a March 23 parade in Islamabad, and later the same year at the Shanghai Co-operation Summit.

“What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir”

Now there is an interim government in charge. They have limited powers and this provides the establishment a freehand. As a first step the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) on May,29 2018 (soon after the announcement of interim PM) tweeted the first sign of the establishment’s anticipated strategy to calm tensions with India. The director generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement on the border, including the LOC in AJK. India for their part realise that the only time relations with their neighbours to the West got better, was under Musharraf’s rule, which is why they believe talking to the establishment will lead to better results with respect to CPEC. If this turns out to be true, then India will be given the green light to join CPEC in the coming weeks. It would benefit them greatly as it would open up markets in central Asia, and, at the same time, ease tensions with Pakistan.

 

In the end, CPEC seems like a great opportunity for all countries involved yet there is one important community that is being ignored in all of this, the people of GB and AJK. If there had been a strong and unified leadership in the region then perhaps they could have used this opportunity to pressurise Pakistan, and India in to giving them more autonomy and letting them be in charge of their own fate.

However, current leaders are not brave enough to make these sacrifices and are, instead, happy to take whatever scraps Islamabad throws at them. What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of GB and AJK. Only then can the years of oppression they have suffered through finally come to a stop and its citizens get the freedom they have craved for so long.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/250530/cpec-a-solution-to-the-kashmir-issue/