By Sahibzada M. Saeed
“When we shake hand with someone he remains our friend for life.” These were the words of my cherished host in Shanghai Mr. Xu Wenhong, when he was seeing me off from my hotel to the airport. Mr. Xu is the deputy secretary general of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the incharge of Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.
I was in Shanghai from 31st October to 3rd November on the invitation of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). CASS is Beijing based premier academic organization and comprehensive research center of the People’s Republic of China in the fields of philosophy and social sciences. CASS has been declared Asia’s leading think tank by Foreign Policy magazine. At present, the organization has more than 4,200 staff members in total, of which more than 3,200 are professional researchers.
CASS has organized two days international conference in University of Shanghai. The title of the conference was “The Belt and Road and the Expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”. It was high level academic discussion in which scholars from Russia, Belarus, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan and Ukraine have participated. Along with all these international participants, representatives of various domestic research centers were gathered from all over the China. Pakistan and India have joined Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)’s club this year. For the first time, the organizers of this conference have sent invitations to Pakistan and India. So, I was the first Pakistani research scholar to join this remarkable forum.
The two-day conference consisted of six sessions including introductory and closing sessions. In the first session prospects for the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were discussed. The subject of discussion in the second session was economic cooperation between Europe and Asia in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. While in the third session, the role of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Shanghai Cooperation Organization was discussed. On the second day’s first session, discussion encompassed the challenges for political stability and security within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Whereas, in the last session, new opportunities for the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were debated.
I have delivered my speech on the first day of the session. My topic of discussion was “21st Century Maritime Silk Road: An Economic Win-Win for SCO and Pakistan”. The all participants of the conference were fully aware of the fact that the prime geopolitical location of Pakistan is highly essential for the prosperous region. I have aptly briefed the all participants that Pakistan’s geographical position, historical and cultural background makes it a valuable member of SCO. I have firmly stated that Pakistan lies at the tri-junction of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. The prime location of Pakistan can effectively act as a bridge between SCO and the rest of the world. And all regional states especially land locked Central Asian Republics and India as well could take benefits from Pakistan’s geo-economic position under the institutional framework of SCO. I have further said that today we gathered to discuss the options for cooperation and coordination. Today we gathered to discuss the future of Asia and the people of Asia. And it is important to discuss because 21st Century is Asia’s century and China is an important player in Asia.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor and Gwadar are the flagship component of 21st century Maritime Silk Road. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road starches from South China Sea to Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. This idea was presented by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his speech in the Indonesian Parliament in 2013. It is considered as a marvelous idea of connectivity via sea in order to re-establish ancient Maritime Silk Road by connecting Southeast Asia with Africa and Europe. In order to fund the project, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has been established with the fund of 100 Billion USD for infrastructure development work across the main Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs).
The next day I met Dr. Vladimir PETROVSKIY, in the sideline of the conference. Dr. PETROCSKIY is the chief academic researcher of Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow. He told me that academic and journalistic circles in Russia welcome the reinvigoration of Pak-Russia relations and we are looking forward for further cooperation and collaboration in the field of economic, trade and defence. I have told him that joint exercise “DRUZBA” (friendship) between the special forces of Pakistan and Russian armies is remarkable initiative to strengthen our bilateral ties.
Along with it, I have met our Consul General Dr. Naeem Khan in Consulate General of Pakistan Shanghai. I was proud and delighted to see Mr. Consul General and his hardworking team which were committed to serve our best national interest at foreign land.
Shanghai is an amazing and most fascinating city with the traits of the most modern and largest city of the world. City’s view from people Square and the bund is highly mesmerizing and captivating. And a good company makes the amusement further memorable. Fortuitously, I found company of Mr. Fabricio Fonseca, a research scholar from Mexico. Who was also participating in the conference and was doing research on geo-economics of Chinese investments in Latin America. So, it was a good experience to explore the great city of Shanghai with him.
After this visit, I am highly confident to say that Pakistan and China has great past, magnificent present and glorious future. I would iterate Mr. Xu’s words that “When we shake hand with someone he remains our friend for life.” So we have shook hands and history is the witness about the cordial relations between Islamabad and Beijing. For further cooperation we should join hands and let One Belt One Road (OBOR) be completed. OBOR is like a tree trunk its branches will cover the whole region. And indeed, it will be the great opportunity to attract and benefit the people of Asia. Long live our friendship.