ISLAMABAD, Feb. 14: (CPEC Reporter) Pakistan-China Institute (PCI), Pakistan has launched an initiative titled “Friends of Silk Road” in Pakistan on February 14th, as a people’s platform bringing together different segments of society.
The event was graced by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, who thanked PCI for launching the initiative of the “Friends of Silk Road.” Highlighting the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that it will change the 21st century in terms of regional connectivity. “CPEC is an iconic initiative, and is beyond regional divide. Five years ago, Pakistan was energy deficient, but now Pakistan has the energy to kick off economic growth.” He also said that after the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China and upon the conclusion of the 8th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on CPEC, it has been decided that 2019 will be the year of industrial cooperation. “Special Focus will be given to the industrial sector, as well as agriculture.”
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of PCI, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, said that the “Friends of Silk Road” is a major initiative, and given Pakistan’s pivotal role on CPEC as well as Pakistan’s long-standing relationship with China, it is now elevated from an ‘All Weather Friendship’ to being ‘Iron Brothers.’ He said that Pakistan is the first among the BRI countries to launch the forum which would include local communities, parliamentarians, press, business and opinion leaders, youth and women, professionals and civil society, students and scholars. “The forum will provide both a better understanding and information about benefits of the fruits of progress and development offered by the numerous opportunities arising out of the BRI through CPEC. Thanks to CPEC, there is not only a turnaround in the image of Pakistan but our role is emerging as a major hub of regional connectivity”. He also highlighted the importance of CPEC for women, saying that CPEC will be helpful in empowering the women of Pakistan.
The Chinese delegation was headed by Mr. Gao Yunlong, who is the Vice Chairman of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He said that China and Pakistan’s All-Weather friendship is based on public support and mutual trust. “Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Xi Jinping held a meeting, after which a consensus was formed in building a closer community, which will set the course for future bilateral relations.” Talking about the importance of CPEC, he said that CPEC is the flagship project of the BRI, and has yielded many positive results. “Out of 22 cooperative projects under CPEC, 9 have been completed and 13 are under construction. Pakistan has shown to be a strong supporter and active player for the projects under CPEC, and has shown a positive response.”
Leader of the House of the Senate of Pakistan, Syed Shibli Faraz said that CPEC is unique when it comes to infrastructural development. “Unfortunately, the benefits of CPEC weren’t understood better before. Now that we are in government, we have come to realize that CPEC will be extremely beneficial for small industries and businesses.” He said that through CPEC, we want Pakistan to benefit in other sectors, to diversify exports, especially in engineering goods, which are only 1% of our exports.
The speeches were followed by the unveiling of the “Friends of Silk Road” board, which formally inaugurated the Friends of Silk Road Initiative. The unveiling was done by the Ambassador of China to Pakistan, Yao Jing and Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed.
The unveiling was followed by a roundtable discussion, which featured important personnel including the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy, Zhao Lijian, Mr Hassan Daud Butt, Project Director of CPEC in the Ministry of Planning, Mr Li Rougo, Vice President of the China Peace and Development Foundation and Senator Lt Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production. The event had standing room only, packed participation including Parliamentarians from both the government and the opposition, civil society, Think tanks, business and opinion leaders.