LAHORE: A round table conference on the 3rd BRF: New Stage of High-Quality China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Development held under the aegis of Daily The CPEC concluded at a local hotel in Lahore on Wednesday.
Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lahore Mr. Zhao Shiren, National Institute of Maritime Affairs Director General Vice Admiral (retd) Ahmed Saeed, Orange Line CEO Mr. Li Chen, CEO Orange Line, Caretaker Punjab Health Minister Professor Dr. Javed Akram, Pakistan Observer Chairman Faisal Zahid Malik. Other distinguished personalities, chief executive offices and representatives of different companies graced the occasion.
The Daily CPEC Founder & CEO Saud Faisal Malik, who was the organizers of the first roundtable conference on 3rd Belt and Road Forum in Lahore, warmly welcomed the guests.
The conference was started after recitation of the holy verses from the Holy Quran followed by the national anthem of both the countries.
Addressing the seminar, Chinse Consul General in Lahore Mr. Zhao Shiren said that the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) has been successfully concluded in Beijing. The conference was started by recitation of the holy verses from the Holy Quran followed by the national anthems of both the countries.
He said that the Forum was attended by over 10,000 participants from 151 countries and 41 international organizations. It is a super mega diplomatic gathering. He stated that the size and scale of the participation has once again showcased to the world the tremendous appeal and global impact of the BRI.
During the BRF, he said that 458 major outcomes have been produced, which include important cooperation initiatives and institutional arrangements. Just to name a new, the Beijing Initiative for Connectivity Cooperation, the Beijing Initiative for Belt and Road Green Development, the Beijing Initiative for Belt and Road Digital Economy Corporation, the Green Investment and Finance Partnership, and the High-Level Principles on corruption-free Belt and Road Building.
The Forum, Mr. Zhao said, had announced that China would provide 100,000 more training opportunities on green development for partner countries by 2030, and would also increase the number of joint laboratories to 100.
The Chinese diplomat also said that the Forum decided to establish a resident BRF secretariat to facilitate institution-building and project implementation. In addition, the BRF CEO Conference also signed commercial agreements worth USD 97.2 billion, which will help generate jobs and growth in the BRI countries.
“The 3rd BRF is the most important diplomatic initiative launched and hosted by China this year, and the grand celebration for the 10th anniversary of the BRI. It not only provides new opportunities for cooperation with the international community, but also adds new momentum to promoting China-Pakistan relations to a new height,” said Mr. Zhao Shiren.
He also said, “To better understand the merits and essence of the 3rd BRF, I’d like to use “4As” (Agreement, Aspiration, Action and Anticipation) to highlight the Forum and look into the prospects of China-Pakistan cooperation,”.
Mr. Zhao said that first, striving for a high-quality Belt and Road cooperation is the most important agreement out of this forum. During its ten-year journey, BRI has been turned from vision into reality, and has developed itself from a rough sketch into a refined and claborate-style painting. BRI, he said, has become the biggest public good provided by China to the international community, and it has also grown into the largest platform for international development cooperation.
He said that the BRF would elevate connectivity of the Eurasian continent to a new stage. The green development would become a hallmark of the future Belt and Road endeavors.
“Empowered by the Digital Silk Road, and the Global Initiative on AI Governance put forward by China, the global digital governance system will also be further enhanced and strengthened, ” said Mr. Zhao.
He stated that second, achieving global modernization through joint efforts is the most ambitious aspiration out of the Forum.
“China is making all-out efforts to achieve its modernization. It dominates our domestic agenda and also tops our foreign policy priority. Realizing modernization is the common aspiration and the due right of all peoples around the world,” he added,
The Chinese consul general said that the BRF offers a cooperation platform for common development and shared growth and helps the Global South countries accelerate their drive towards modernization. China proposed for the first time that global modernization should be pursued through joint efforts of all countries to enhance peaceful development and mutually beneficial cooperation and bring prosperity to all.
He stated that it is consistent with China’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. It will be the most noble cause and magnificent experiment in human history if all countries, one after another, can realize modernization.
Third, action, he said, is the defining feature of the Forum. “To advance Belt and Road cooperation, we need to build consensus for collaboration and, more importantly, take concrete actions. Action speaks for itself,” said Mr. Zhao.
He said that President Xi Jinping announced eight-point actions that China will take to sustain and support the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, which includes building a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network, supporting an open world economy, implementing practical cooperation, promoting green development, advancing scientific and technological innovation, supporting people-to-people exchanges, enhancing corruption-free Belt and Road cooperation, and strengthening Belt and Road institutional building. Goals are set and targets must be met. With these actions driven and taken, the B&R cooperation will be further expanded and the process expedited, naturally the high-quality development ensured.
Mr. Zhao Shiren said, “Maybe I have talked too much on the Belt and Road Forum. People may wonder how this Forum impacts Pakistan? And what benefits may this BRF (Forum) produce on China-Pakistan relations? I believe a new journey is awaiting us, a new chapter is unfolding, and fresh impetus has been injected into our cooperation for high-quality development,”.
Giving reference to Caretaker Prime Minister Kakar’s recent visit to China, the Chinese diplomat said that during his meeting with the Chinese President and Premier, the leaders discussed various aspects and issues of the BRI, the CPEC, and China-Pakistan relations. Both reaffirmed their commitment to develop the all-weather strategic partnership to a new historical level.
He stated that a landmark joint statement was issued, and both sides agreed to fast track development of the Gwadar Port and ML-1 project. Twenty agreements and MoUs were signed, covering cooperation on infrastructure, mining, industry, green and low-carbon development, health, space cooperation, digital economy, development cooperation and agricultural export to China. (growth corridor, livelihood-enhancing corridor, innovation corridor, green corridor and open corridor).
He went on to say that over the past decade, CPEC, as a signature project of the BRI, has brought Pakistan huge investment, created 236,000 direct jobs, built roads, power plants, transmission lines and optical fiber lines.
The diplomat said that Pakistan has benefited substantially from the CPEC. Its energy and infrastructure landscape has been profoundly transformed. The debt servicing for Pakistan is a big challenge. And Chinese rendered its hand in this regard. But the so-called “debt trap” incurred from the CPEC is a sheer fabrication and distortion of the true picture of bilateral cooperation.
The cardinal principle of China’s neighborhood diplomacy and our foreign policy towards Pakistan is three “Ms”: mutual respect, mutual support and mutual benefits.
“In promoting BRI and the CPEC, we always adhere to the guidelines of extensive consultation, mutual cooperation and mutual benefits. As Consul General of China in Lahore, I assure you that I will always promote friendship, and work for practical cooperation and a stronger, viable and sustainable bilateral relations. I will defend the CPEC and fight for the projects when necessary. I will make every single effort to safeguard and ensure the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese people, institutions and projects in Punjab,” said Mr. Zhao Shiren.
A question and answer session was held at the end of the conference where Chinese Consul General Mr. Zhao Shiren heard the questions of the participants and shared his response.
Mr. Li Chen, the CEO of Orange Line also addressed the conference. He stated that NORINCO has joined Pakistan’s development since the 1970s, being a long-term defense and engineering partner, NORINCO has been contributing their expertise and experience to Pakistan for more than 50 years.
“By the great stage of CPEC, NORINCO successfully built and operated Orange Line Metro in Lahore, which is the first large-scale rail transit infrastructure project under the initiative,” he said.
He also said that Orange Line, nowadays, has been running safely for 3 years with 120 million ridership. Taking the satisfaction of the passengers as the top priority, he said, OL has operated 320,000 train trips, covering a total distance of 35 million kilometers, with trip efficiency and punctuality at 99.99％. He stated that with great guidance with Pak government, OL successfully reduced the travel cost of the route from 700 rupees to 40 only, with 0 increment of fare for 3 years despite heavy inflation, to ensure the commuting of citizens and underprivileged people.
“Orange line has become the most welcomed transit system by its convenience, safety and efficiency,” he added.
He also said that to honor the commitment of CPEC, Orange Line is aimed to be a metro for Pakistani people, to the benefit of Pakistan people. OL provided 7,000 jobs for local engineers, laborers during the construction phase and created another 2000 brand-new and permanent jobs after its operation.
He stated that by training hand to hand, face to face, 1,300 local operation employees have acquired O&M professional capabilities,“It is our local brothers and sisters who are operating the train, taking care of the passengers and maintaining the systems now,” said Mr. Li.
He also said, “To give a fish, is just a start. New stage of CPEC development is to teach fishing, to enable Pakistan to revitalize its economy. As one of the CPEC teams, NORINCO has never forgotten our CPEC obligation,”.
For Construction, the Orange Line CEO said that all civil engineering works and technology were shared to the local companies, to establish their modern rail transit engineering capabilities.
For operation, NORINCO spared no effort to combine international standards, Chinese technology with Pakistan practice, develop the first ever localized, customized metro operation and training system for Pakistan.
“Orange Line is good, but far from enough. 2nd stage of CPEC, means high quality of projects with latest technology and environmental sustainability as well,” said the OL CEO.
During OL operation, he stated, NORINCO signed and implemented a series of green and digital cooperation projects, such as Pakistan’s first full-digital E-ticketing system investment with Pakistan railway, first air monitoring station network with Punjab government and others as a professional technology integrator.
“As one of the CPEC teams, we are not alone. There are so many dedicated, motivated leaders, officers, hard- working engineers, professionals together with us today. People may not know us, but they will remember that it is CPEC metro, who insist on a low fare price among high utility price; they will remember that it is the CPEC power plant, which generates power to the public, but bear the loss themselves. They will remember the CPEC roads, which cost huge but charge nothing. CPEC is fulfilling its promise, to benefit the people, to inspire the people,” he pointed out.
He went on to say that the second stage of CEPC, the ultimate goal, is to create opportunities and hope.
“CPEC is not a gift, it is a bridge. we need each other. Every time, when I am in touch with our local officers, engineers and technicians, I am very much impressed by their hard working, professional, good English and enthusiasm,” said Mr. Li Chen.
Caretaker Punjab Health Minister Javed Akram highlighted the importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He gave reference to the Chinese health system including the cardiovascular treatment, emphasizing upon strengthening further cooperation between the both sides.
The minister lauded the role of the Daily CPEC and the conference under its aegis to highlight the importance of CPEC. He also distributed the shields on the occasion.
Haji Muhammad Rafiq Pardesi also addressed the conference and pointed out the significance of the CPEC.
“If CPEC comes then there will be a positive change,” said Rafiq Pardeshi.
He emphasized upon making the right decisions and at the right time. He urged the people to utilize the time properly.
National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) Director General Vice Admiral (retd) Ahmed Saeed presented a very informative presentation on the CPEC and the related projects.
He said that Chinese President Xi Jinping dispelled the impression that BRI had lost its importance.
“BRI is not about just a country or countries, it is about planning together and benefiting together,” said Mr. Saeed.
He came up with the facts and figures about the costly BRI project and pointed to the positive approach of the Chinese leadership towards development and prosperity.
Mr. Ahmed Saeed also talked about port operation and informed the audience about the operational requirement of any port. Land, Port and Seat, he said, were the three areas which were important for connectivity.
Highlighting the role of SIFC, Mr. Ahmed Saeed said, “SIFC should consider the maritime side as well for some projects,”.
“This is what I want for the maritime side,” he said.
The NIMA DG also emphasized upon a strong financial system, pointing out that “We need to put our house in order,”.