The Silk Road is a golden road

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Rising above defeated mindsets

Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back, Plato once said. So, one song is sung and completed by several hearts. That is how humans learn to benefit from each other.

Expand the level of connectivity, and regional connectivity leads to fast economic development. Europe, America and other western regions have made the most of regional connectivity.

But what about South Asia?

This part of the world is plagued with regional disputes which undermines its strategic location. Pakistan and India eat up each others’ resources.

The leadership of South Asia has also failed to resolve bilateral conflicts pushing their people into the darkness of poverty, extremism, illiteracy and backwardness.

Pakistan’s successive regimes have failed to benefit from its three international ports — Gwadar, Karachi and Pasni.

Come out of South Asia for a while and consider China for a study where its leadership is using trade links to improve and resolve political disputes peacefully.

When Saudi Arabia and Iran were making headlines for clash, China made headlines for delivering the first cargo train from China to Tehran on February 15.

The train arrived in Iran through rugged routes of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, covering a distance of 10,399 kilometres. Compared to the sea voyage, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter.

The freight train came during the visit to Iran by President Xi Jinping, the first one by a Chinese president in 14 years, and just days after sanctions against Tehran were lifted under a historic nuclear deal with world powers.

Xi’s recent visit to the Gulf countries reflects a new feature in Chinese policy. Beijing is now directly expanding its outreach to Gulf countries.

China’s proposed initiatives of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, establishing a “1+2+3” cooperation pattern and industrial capacity cooperation, have been well received by Arab countries.

The “1+2+3” cooperation pattern refers to taking energy cooperation as the core, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as the two wings, and the high-tech fields of nuclear energy, space satellites and new energy as the three breakthroughs.

China is willing to work with Arab states to promote new cooperation mechanisms featuring openness and reciprocity and win-win results.

The establishment of the train link with Tehran reflects Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative of belt and road which is touted as a revival of ancient Silk Road trade routes. Pakistan plays a linchpin in the initiative of which China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a pilot project.

The South China Sea has been a major source of Chinese trade to the world. However, Chinese influence in the waters has faced a major challenge. Of late, the marine forces from United States of America (USA) have increased their presence in the South China Sea with US aircraft carriers with Japanese assistance in the region posing a serious challenge to the Chinese influence and trade endeavours.

The Silk Road is very close to the heart of the Chinese president, who strongly believes in connecting China with the rest of the world through a chain of land and sea routes as the Japan-US nexus poses major challenges to Chinese trade.

More than two thousand years ago, the ancient Silk Road was extended to the world connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa, promoting the prosperity of all countries along the route and cultivating a collective spirit of peace, openness, inclusiveness, mutual-learning and win-win cooperation.

In the year 2013, the Chinese leadership raised the important initiative of jointly building the new Silk Road economic belt and the 21st century maritime Silk Road carrying the development and prosperity dream of all countries en route, linking the Chinese dream with the world’s dream.

With too much already written on CPEC, there is a need to view other significant features of the belt and road initiative. As of the end of 2015, the Export-Import Bank of China’s outstanding loans to countries along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative had risen 46 per cent from the beginning of last year to 520 billion Yuan ($79 billion), accounting for 37 per cent of the bank’s total overseas lending.

With a special eye on the Gulf region, China for the first time is reaching out to the Arab world to ensure an uninterrupted fuel supply to its south-western and north-eastern regions. China is willing to coordinate development strategies with Arab states and put into play each other’s advantages and potential.

The first phase of a joint venture between Muyang Co, China’s biggest feed machinery maker, and the China-Africa Development Fund went into operation in the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone in December 2015.

Guangzhou Dayun Motorcycle Co will invest $78 million in a plant in the Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone that can make 500,000 bikes a year. It will provide jobs, stimulate the industry and provide tax revenue to Egypt.

A new business hub widely known as Madinat al-Hareer, or Silk City, is co-developed by Kuwaiti and Chinese enterprises and expected to be completed by 2035 in northern Kuwait, featuring a 1,001-meter tall skyscraper in its master plan.

Inmarsat, a leading provider of global satellite communication services in London, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Transport Telecommunication and Information Centre on a mobile satellite broadband communications service.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially launched its second Belgian branch on January 26 in Antwerp, which is the financial and cultural capital of Belgium, and one of the biggest ports in the world.

Fresh from its success in securing control of Greece’s Piraeus Port Authority SA, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company, better known as COSCO, is now bidding to run the port of Limassol on the island of Cyprus.

The China-Laos Railway project in Vientiane to go into operation in 2020 will have a length of 418 km and connect with China’s network, to improve Laos’ undeveloped passenger and cargo transportation capacity and to benefit people along the route.

The 850-km China-Thailand railway will link the Thai capital Bangkok with the northeastern city of Nong Khai near the border with Laos. It will also push economic and social development in China and Thailand as well as the whole region.

The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway project in Indonesia is underway. It is one of the first cooperation projects in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Indonesia’s maritime strategy. It will cut the travel time from more than three hours to less than 40 minutes.

If China can connect with the whole world, why can’t Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other countries of the region work together?

We have the potential and courage to deal with the challenges. The only thing we need is to rise above defeated mindsets and take bold and wise steps to ensure a peaceful, stable and prosperous region for our upcoming generations.

As a Chinese saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”, Pakistan and its neighbours need to take the first step for regional cooperation and trade by constructively engaging in the belt and road initiative of President Xi. The rest, as they say, would be history.

3 COMMENTS

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