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BRI in context of peace, sustainability

BY IQBAL
THE Indian Ocean Region (IOR), an important trade zone of the world, includes a wide variety of races, cultures, and religions. Today, the true spirit of Silk Route is being considered a historic and cultural heritage of India Ocean Region (IOR) that symbolizes communication and cooperation between the East and the West for greater peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and benefit. The case of IOR has the same feature, where the concept of One Belt One Road (OBOR) / Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was conceived as a multifaceted economic, diplomatic and geopolitical undertaking that imagined a US$1.3 trillion Chinese-led investment programme – a potential Sino-Asian shift. Dollar’s dominance would be affected due to China’s new vision and strategy towards modern globalization.
To be optimistic, the notion of development strategy Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would be significant in maintaining historic values. The global maritime industry is entrusted towards an estimated economic output potential of 300 billion USD gross value added (GVA) and 5 million full-time jobs, with around 1.5 trillion USD GVA and 31 million full-time jobs output for all ocean industries. More than 80% of all goods (by volume) are transported by ships, a very efficient mode of transport providing access to global markets for food, energy and other products with current freight costs calculated to be 7% relative to the value of goods for developed countries and to be 8 to 11% for developing countries, and corresponds to approximately 3% of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions or about 900 million tones per annum. At present, IOR supports over 40% of the global trade where the concept of ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, especially through Gwadar Gateway – the link between China’s maritime and overland silk road with the port of Gwadar forming the crux of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would be significant to meet the obligations of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As far as the interests of Pakistan are concerned, the value of CPEC infrastructure projects, originally valued at $46 billion, is now worth over $62 billion. CPEC would rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy. Socio-economic uplift is quite visible especially for a neglected coastal community in particular and overall Balochistan at large and adjoining areas through commissioning of Gwadar Port and entire CPEC route in general. Besides, overall national economy would get a quantum jump. The UN’s global agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers a good avenue to Pakistan to showcase CPEC under that umbrella as maritime industry has the greatest potential to contribute to the SDGs on climate action, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, life below water, good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, and life on land. Opportunities related to these goals can also positively contribute to other goals thus would be instrumental in bringing social-uplift, peace, harmony and integration in the region.
On other hand, traditional and non-traditional security threats needs to have a deep insight on geo-political scenario where Pakistan has traditional rivalry with India. India is developing its ties with Iran’s Chabahar Port. The Chabahar and Gwadar Ports can be the sister ports in order to compliment the huge potential of CPEC/BRI. However, security concerns are high due to Indian infiltration due to its strategic and geo-political interests which are not in the best interests of the overall region at large. The non-traditional threats include environmental, safety and climatic concerns.
It is quite visible that the potential threats are best evaluated by the Chinese Communist Party thus included the BRI in its constitution, proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the concept has a central and significant place in China’s foreign policy going forward. With excellent risk analysis, focus of Chinese Government can be seen on all important dimensions of BRI i.e. policy coordination and advocacy; facilities connectivity; unimpeded trade; financial integration; and development of people-to-people. Understanding Sino-Asian shift and taking direction from Chinese measures regarding BRI, development and implementation of a Comprehensive Risk Management Strategy for CPEC and Gwadar is critically important and need of the hour for Pakistan. China’s has dominating posture throughout the globe in setting modern globalization trends where Pakistan may experience a potential threat indirectly from existing market forces, and at same time Pakistan has traditional rivalry with India which has undeclared support from other Pro-Indian/Anti-China international forces.
The Risk Management Strategy of Pakistan needs to include and launch more coordinated advocacy campaign at national, regional and international level. The “Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025” as conclusion of the 13th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) can be instrumental, diplomacy needs to be strategized on priority basis. In a nutshell, maritime diplomacy (including Environmental Diplomacy) is critical beside other naval/strategic security measures in order to safeguard the interest of a prosperous Pakistan through CPEC and Gwadar Port under the umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative.

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