Diversity in Pakistan in the Context of One Belt One Road By Huma Khan

Ms. Huma Khan holds M.Phil in Public Policy and is currently the Research Director of a local Think Tank in Pakistan

Globalization has put forth the right foundations for the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) to flourish to its fullest potential; the mushroom growth in the real economic indicators in China and the Belt and Road (BRI) participant states have become remarkably unbelievable. The physical distances have now culminated by the presence of digital and virtual reality which has made the physical borders transparent. The world has become a global village in its real essence and now China, through its trade diplomacy, has become the most desired trade partner for the developing world. There is no doubt that Chinese dream is yielding promising results for the BRI member countries and China itself. Nevertheless, as much as the BRI has changed the global trade dynamics for good, the countries are experiencing extended implications in its socio-cultural arena in the shape of increased diversity within the national borders. With the extensive expansion of Chinese projects globally, the interaction of a common person has rapidly increased in the fields of business, education and tourism. Pakistan is no such exception, as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) constitutes of one-sixth of the entire project where China and Pakistan have signed numerous exclusive trade contracts under the $65 billion initiative.

From the geographical vicinity of Gilgit to Gwadar, massive infrastructural development projects are under process which has given exposure to the Pakistanis for having a firsthand experience of engagement with the Chinese. As the road pathways cross the major cities, smaller towns and the rural settings of the country, the exchange of people to people interaction turned out to be the foremost factor enhancing social understanding between the two nations through exposure hence the cultural amalgamation has increased. The lesser advantaged class of the country, which could not attain an opportunity for exposure through travel, is given the experience at home grounds now. Pakistan, an ethnically diverse country has now opened its borders to other nationalities where Chinese makes a significant proportion of foreigners working in country. Hence, diversity in Pakistan has further increased by all means.

The scholars of diversity portray the positive and negative implications of increased diversity within a country happening within a very short period of time, as is the case of CPEC. There is no doubt that sub-groups do exist in any social setting which tend to have nationalist notions, however, as the world took a plunge towards globalization, majority understood that without extending ties with the global economy, a country would practically become isolated where politically, economically and socially it will fail to exist. Diversity tends to increase tolerance, harmony and acceptance within a society. Risks of incidents which are extremist and radical in nature are reduced in diverse cultures as there is more recognition of differences.Active involvement of government institutionsin inculcating an environment of understanding and acceptance towards other nationalities proves to be successful under such circumstances where national harmony is of concern. More awareness led programs at grass root levels helps in fostering an attitude of welcoming and sharing, hence, the barriers of isolation are shattered.

CPEC is an ideal example of bilateral trade program between two countries which has generated extended interest of other regional and extra-regional countries. This is extremely favorable for Pakistan in boosting its economic performance by extending business opportunities to all. However, the real essence of success lies in how well the society is able to cope up with the diversity and increased presence of foreigners in its land. Diversity leads to exposure which further assists in eliminating the other evils of extremism and radicalization in a society. More tolerance is built for a mutually beneficial relation which as a nation we have already started to experience in shape of improved socio-economic performance of Pakistan.