WELCOME REMARKS – Seminar on “Pakistan, Central Asia and CPEC: A vision for improved connectivity”

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Welcome Remarks of the Director General ISSI

Seminar on Pakistan, Central Asia and CPEC: A vision for improved connectivity

13 November 2018

Foreign Secretary, Dean of Diplomatic Corps, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I extend a warm welcome to you all at this Seminar.

We have gathered here today to explore the benefits of improved connectivity for Pakistan, Central Asian Republics, and China.

We are pleased that Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua is personally here to signify the importance that the Government of Pakistan attaches to this subject for our strategic and economic interests. We eagerly look forward to hearing her perspective.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan has paid a historic visit to China this month. A comprehensive joint statement was issued. The bonds of friendship and connectivity have been renewed. The leaders have voiced their resolve to forge ahead with the implementation of CPEC and other social and economic initiatives. The presence of Ambassador YAO JING of China in this seminar will help us understand better the import of the vision of connectivity that the Chinese leadership has set out for this region.

The people of Pakistan and Central Asia are bound by shared history, culture, faith, and regional proximity. I have personally had the pleasure of visiting these states several times. My first visit to these states was in December 1991 and early 1992 when these states were gaining their independence after decades of Soviet rule. I then visited these states recently. I must admit that I have been highly impressed about what I saw. The way these countries have progressed and achieved high standards of development is indeed commendable.

I am pleased to welcome Ambassador BARLYBAY SADYKOV of Kazakhstan. He has been honoring us with his presence in several of our events. We would soon be hosting an event on Pakistan-Kazakhstan relations, where he would be the keynote speaker.

Let me also welcome Ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic, Ambassador ERIK BEISHEMBIEV. Kyrgyzstan has an important role as it borders western China and would be an important conduit for all facets of connectivity.

I am happy to recognize Ambassador SHERALI JONONOV of Tajikistan. I had interacted with him earlier too when I was Foreign Secretary and always found him to be a dynamic ambassador working hard to promote bilateral ties. Tajikistan has an important role to play in the realm of connectivity through CPEC.

I also would like to acknowledge the presence of Ambassador FURQAT SIDIKOV of Uzbekistan. He has been an excellent host when we visited his beautiful country for SCO summit. Uzbekistan has proud rich heritage, and we all love to visit those impressive sites in Registan square and mausoeum of Imam Bokhari and that of Amir Taimur.

I would also like to recognize the DEAN of the diplomatic corps, Ambassador ATADJAN MOVLAMOV of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan is well positioned to play the most vital role in energy connectivity. It is encouraging to see the progress made thus far in moving TAPI project forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The primary focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy with China and the Central Asian Republics is on developing mutually beneficial cooperation. Pakistan provides an important route to Indian Ocean for all these states. CPEC is central to this connectivity. CPEC is not just about infrastructure or energy cooperation. It covers the entire gamut of connectivity to bring prosperity to the entire region.

It is heartening to note that the leadership of Pakistan, China, and Central Asian Republics have maintained a close contact with each other, bilaterally and through multilateral settings like Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Our leaders have shown the political will to connect this region in multiple ways. This is borne out of their conviction that we all have common stakes in the peace and stability of the region and progress and prosperity of our people.

The current level of trade in the region is not high, and could receive a boost through BRI and CPEC. Infrastructure development is certainly doing better. We also need adequate traffic-in-transit arrangements to facilitate trade and communications in the region. Energy cooperation is an area that has received attention, but potential is much larger.

One final point that I would like to touch is the enabling environment that we all need to help create. Pakistan has come a long way in defeating terrorism in our country. Our successes in countering terrorism have generated hope for boosting our economy and our economic ties with China and Central Asia. Likewise, we need to address the human resource requirements, as for all these projects of connectivity, we need trained skilled manpower.

Another important factor is peace and stability in Afghanistan, which we all so deeply desire. The channels of connectivity in our region would get an added boost if peace returns to Afghanistan.

In the end, let me once again, thank you all for your presence. I look forward to hearing you.

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