ISLAMABAD: Experts at a media workshop here Wednesday stressed that it was vital to turn Pakistan’s strategic location from being a liability to a major driver of its economic uplift by overcoming political expediencies.
The second one-day media workshop titled “Pakistan’s Relations with US, China and Russia” organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) was attended by a large number of journalists.
According to a IPRI press release, the experts were of the view that the Government of Pakistan (GoP) needed to remove the choke points at Gwadar (Balochistan) by taking the Baloch and Iranians into confidence on the mutual use of Chabahar and Gwadar ports.
It was highlighted that as the United States (US) and India were uncomfortable with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), hence were spreading misperceptions and propaganda, especially against CPEC to subvert the projects and foment political instability in Pakistan.
The US was exploiting Pakistan’s economic vulnerability through the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF); while India was using hybrid warfare techniques to subvert CPEC projects, the experts added.
Ambassador (R) Tajammul Altaf, in his presentation on ‘Pakistan-China Relations in the perspective of CPEC Strategic Partnership’, provided a brief overview of China’s economic and political history from 221 BC when it emerged as a unified state to the modern-day vision of President Xi Jinping to make his country a number one economic power by 2030 and military power by 2050.
Ambassador Altaf explained that Pakistan considered its friendship with China the ‘cornerstone of its foreign policy’ since it was a friendship which had stood the test of time. ‘Both countries enjoy very close people-to-people, friendly, friction-free, robust, unique and pragmatic relations,’ he added.
He said CPEC was aimed at China’s development pathway through BRI and uplifting of Pakistan’s economy through development of the Gwadar Port which would be the second deepest port in the world; energy projects of 17,000 MW; infrastructure and data communication projects; construction of Industrial Parks and 26 Special Economic Zones (SEZs), apart from enhancing the agriculture and tourism sector.
He explained that Pakistan’s GDP growth was expected to rise to 7 per cent by 2020. About 80,000 trucks would transport oil & gas, agricultural, industrial products and natural resources daily from Central Asia and Russia to China, Asia, Africa and Europe via Gwadar Port, with expected annual earnings of USD 5 billion by 2022 from toll collection, which would ease out the balance of payment.
The relocation of light engineering sector industries from China and international foreign direct investment in SEZs would be a major contributor to revenue, jobs and GDP growth worth USD 20 billion annually, he added.
Ambassador (R) Fauzia Nasreen gave a comprehensive presentation on ‘Pakistan’s Relations with Russia’.
Discussing ‘Pakistan’s Relationship with the US’, Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), said the US’ super power status had led to arrogance, however, Washington had lost whatever leverage it had over Islamabad.
Despite that, the world continued to view Pakistan through a US lens, which needed to be countered, he added.
Imtiaz Gul said Pakistan’s biggest challenge was to create a balance between its relations with the US and strategic partnership with China, while simultaneously maintaining good relations with its neighbours.
Earlier, IPRI President Ambassador (R) Abdul Basit, in his opening remarks, said IPRI had initiated the workshops to build the capacity of young media professionals, as well as polish the skills of veterans about Pakistan’s foreign relations and policies since there was a critical need to accelerate efforts to train the next generation of media leaders.
“We live in a world of fast and dramatic global changes and in order to stay abreast of and understand the nuances of foreign policy changes, in-depth understanding of key issues and relationships is required. I hope that such workshops will fast-track the transfer of knowledge and inspire and engage media professionals about Pakistan’s foreign policy issues,” he said.