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ISLAMABAD: The transformational China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), remained at the core of Pak-China relationship and was pivotal to Pakistan’s future economic progress and prosperity.

This was stated by Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), while addressing the Third Pakistan-China Think Tank Forum, convened in Beijing on 21 July 2023, as part of the series of commemorative events being held in connection with completion of 10 years of CPEC.

The 15-member Pakistan delegation visiting China participated in the Seminar jointly organised by ISSI and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), at the CICIR headquarters in Beijing, a press release issued by ISSI here on Sunday said.

Led by Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, the delegation includes diplomats, leading academics, researchers, and media persons.

Following the plenary, the separate sessions of the Seminar, titled “Decade of CPEC: Review and Outlook”, were moderated by Dr. Talat Shabbir, Director China-Pakistan Study Centre (CPSC), ISSI; Dr. Hu Shisheng, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, CICIR; and Dr. Lou Chunhao, Executive Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, CICIR.

The speakers at the event included Ambassador Zhang Maoming, Deputy Director-General, Department of Asian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), China; Head of the Pakistan Delegation Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General, ISSI; Prof. Dr. Attaullah Shah, Vice Chancellor, Karakoram International University, Pakistan; Dr. Wang Xu, Executive Deputy Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, Peking University; Ambassador Babar Amin, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Norway and Australia; Dr. Mukesh Kumar Khatwani, Associate Professor, University of Sindh; Dr. Wang Shida, Deputy Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, CICIR; and Dr. Fouzia Hadi Ali, Associate Professor and Director, Regional Integration Centre, University of the Punjab.

Ambassador Zhang Maoming, Deputy Director-General Department of Asian Affairs, in his keynote address during the plenary extended felicitations to ISSI and CICIR on organising the 3rd Pakistan-China Think Tank Forum.

Ambassador Maoming emphasised that Pakistan and China are good neighbours, good friends, and good brothers.

He underlined that regardless of the dynamic of international politics, China and Pakistan always firmly support each other.

He added that President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had agreed to continue to deepen bilateral strategic cooperation between the two countries.

Ambassador Maomimg underscored that the China-Pakistan friendship was deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples. China extended its support to Pakistani people in the last year’s floods, supported Pakistan in its temporary financial problems, and helped in evacuating the Pakistani nationals from Sudan.

He noted that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This year marks the 10th anniversary of both the CPEC and BRI.

He recalled that during President Xi Jinping’s 2015 official visit to Pakistan the “1+4” Cooperation Structure was setup. Over the past 10 years, CPEC has made a lot of progress and also attracted certain risks and challenges; however, regardless of the challenges, the Chinese side is committed to optimally realising the full potential and ensuring high-quality development of CPEC.

He added that in the second phase of CPEC, China was resolved to enhance cooperation in the fields of agriculture, mining, science and technology, and information technology.

He said that China wishes to make CPEC a demonstration project of high-quality development and contribute to progress and prosperity of Pakistan and countries of the region and beyond.

Ambassador Maoming said that the Pakistan-China Think Tank Forum is an important outcome of the first China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue with the aim to integrate the resources of think-tanks and provide intellectual support for the CPEC.

He stressed the importance of conducting relevant studies and appreciated the efforts of ISSI and CICIR in this regard.

He affirmed that the Chinese side will support Pakistan in an unwavering manner. China would consistently support strategies for modernisation and high-quality development in Pakistan. Among other things, consideration should be given to further align the development strategies and to enhance Pakistan’s exports to China. Both sides should also continue to work together to address security challenges.

Ambassador Maoming also stressed the importance of countering motivated propaganda against CPEC by highlighting the accomplishments of CPEC for the international community.

DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, in his keynote remarks, underlined the importance of the first in-person session of Pakistan-China Think Tank Forum.

He said that ISSI valued its institutional relationship with CICIR and wished to further deepen mutual collaboration.

Ambassador Sohail Mahmood reaffirmed that friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy and the two countries’ time-tested strategic cooperative partnership is based on strategic mutual trust and commonality of views.

The two countries support each other on their respective issues of core interest including Pakistan’s steadfast support to China on ‘One-China’ policy and Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and South China Sea.

For its part, Pakistan appreciated China’s consistent support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and economic development as well as its principled stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Ambassador Sohail Mahmood said that the ‘Decade of CPEC’ is the practical manifestation of the growing strategic relationship between Pakistan and China. CPEC has contributed enormously to Pakistan’s economic growth, helped improve transport infrastructure, address energy deficit, and promoted socio-economic development. The second phase of CPEC is focusing on agriculture, industrialisation, SEZs, mining, science and technology, and Information Technology.

He added that the decision to extend CPEC to Afghanistan and the potential for its further westward movement to Central Asia would help advance the key shared objectives of connectivity and regional economic integration.

Ambassador Sohail Mahmood stressed that the two sides must continue to work together in defending CPEC against threats and challenges posed by forces inimical to Pakistan-China relationship.

The security dimension is most important in terms of safeguarding the shared interests of both nations in the changing geo-strategic environment and optimally realising CPEC’s full potential for development.

He said that successful completion of 10 years is a major milestone and also a fitting juncture for planning for the many next 10 years of CPEC to come.

Ambassador Sohail Mahmood said the leadership and people of Pakistan believe China and Pakistan are indispensable partners and that CPEC is pivotal to Pakistan’s future economic progress and prosperity. This is consistent with Pakistan’s pivot to geo-economics.

He noted that in 2047 and 2049, Pakistan and China would be celebrating their respective centenaries and, as such, the two countries should craft a vision now for the next twenty-five years for their strategic partnership. The vision should also focus on how China’s tremendous technological transformation could be leveraged to advance Pakistan’s economic modernisation and development.

Dr. Fu Xiaoqiang, Vice President, CICIR, in his keynote speech highlighted that China attaches great value to its relations with Pakistan.

He said that over the past decade, CPEC has secured many achievements by creating jobs, improving the energy sector, and adding over 500 kilometres to roads and motorways. The second phase of CPEC is focusing on agriculture, industrialisation and several other key sectors.

He said that CPEC can be further developed on three models; a) on the model of BRI, b) on the model of international relations, and c) on the model of regional development and security. He highlighted that the security of this mega project needs to be closely monitored.

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