Vienna, Austria—The president of Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir was the main speaker at a seminar on Pakistan’s future role.
H.E. Sardar Masood Khan said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project and an offshoot of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Therefore, any role Pakistan can or will play between Europe and China will be within the framework of the BRI and the CPEC combined, he said.
The president made these remarks while addressing a seminar titled "Pakistan's New Role between China and Europe: Opportunities and Challenges of China's Silk Road Project." The seminar on May 29, 2018, was organized by the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) and was hosted by former Defense Minister Dr. Werner Fasslabend, the president of AIES. The event was co-hosted by the Austrian National Defense Academy and the Universal Peace Federation, which were represented by Brigadier Walter Feichtinger and Mr. Peter Haider respectively. It was attended by more than 70 scholars, analysts, ambassadors, diplomats, UN representatives and members of civil society.
Dr. Fasslabend said that Pakistan is young and dynamic. He predicted that it would be among the top economies of the world by 2050. Now that it is the hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said, Pakistan is a conduit and a destination for logistical chains, trade and investments.
Explaining the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative, President Masood Khan called it an unprecedented transcontinental project spanning Asia, Europe and Africa and aiming for global connectivity and economic prosperity. It has massive potential, he said, covering 68 countries with plans to invest over US $1 trillion in infrastructure, energy, and industrial projects.
Underlining the importance of the European Union, President Masood Khan said that the EU's market of 460 million people and its treasure trove of technology and knowhow make it imperative that modern connectivity channels are established. He said that investments in Europe by China in energy, telecommunication, real estate—and, similarly, Europe's investment in industrial and service sectors in China—have created mutual dependencies. Both the BRI and CPEC are a conscious effort to reach out to Europe, which will bring Europe closer to Chinese markets, he said. CPEC is not just a stand-alone project, he added. It is being developed into a network for connecting East Asia, South Asia, Central, West, and Southwest Asia.
Many regional and extra-regional states are showing interest in it, he said, and it has attracted the attention of Russia, Turkey, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. Several other European countries are already consulting with Pakistan and China to participate in CPEC projects, he said. The Gwadar Port, in particular, he said, will give Russia access to warm waters via Central Asia for international trade, helping to begin a new phase of cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. President Masood Khan said that concerted joint investments by Europe, Pakistan and China under the umbrella of CPEC would create huge opportunities for livelihoods, businesses and human development. In this context, he added, it will build bridges between Europe and China, and Europe and Asia, adding that Pakistan will play a pivotal part in this process.
While responding to the questions presented by the participants, the president said that CPEC would continue to be implemented despite the changes in the governments in Pakistan. There would be continuity in CPEC-related projects, which would be completed without interruption, he said, adding that Pakistan is now looking at the region geo-economically, not geo-strategically.
The audience took a keen interest in the possible resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The president said that the Jammu and Kashmir issue should be resolved in accordance with the mechanisms established by the United Nations for the pacific settlement of disputes, which included dialogue, preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, negotiations and mediation. The president said the use of force or state terrorism will not resolve this issue. He expressed confidence that one day the voice of the Kashmiris will be heard and their legitimate right for determining their political future will be recognized by the international community. President Masood Khan said that Azad Kashmir promotes and protects human rights, and he strongly urged the international community to intercede to put an end to the human rights crisis in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.
The president said Azad Jammu and Kashmir is now also integrated into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and four projects under CPEC have been initiated. These are two hydropower projects, one of them being directly funded by the Silk Road Fund, one expressway and an industrial zone. He added that Azad Kashmir was a peaceful territory, with the lowest crime rate and highest educational score in Pakistan.