By S. M. Hali
“Asia’s New Future: Towards a Community of Common Destiny” was the theme for Boao Forum for Asia Annual (BFA) Conference 2015. BFA is a non-government, non-profit international organization and is the most prestigious and premier forum for leaders in government, business and academia in Asia and other continents to share visions on the most pressing issues in this dynamic region and the world at large. Since 2002, the permanent venue for BFA is Boao, a tiny, quiet and scenic island at Hainan, the southernmost part of China.
Amongst the various aspects which came up for discussion at the event this year (March 26-29), the most prominent discussion centered around the “Belt and Road” initiatives, which is the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The concept is not new as millennia ago; Europe and Asia were linked by the Silk Road for trade, commerce and interaction resulting in peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013, he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter referred to as the Belt and Road). Since then, the initiative has received a lot of attention the world over.
While delivering the keynote speech at the opening plenary of the annual conference of the BFA, President Xi Jinping declared that The “Belt and Road” initiatives will not be a solo for China but a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes.
The essential feature of the initiative is that the route, the layout and the various facilities along the “Belt and Road” project will be finalized with wide consultations, deliberation and discussion with all the protagonists.
The wide array of regional platforms for cooperation like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN Plus China (10+1), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asia-Europe Meeting, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, China-Gulf Cooperation Council Strategic Dialogue, Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Cooperation, and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation will add strength to the extent of cooperation and common benefits to attract more countries and regions to participate in the “Belt and Road” Initiative.
It is expected that all the participants will be able to appreciate the benefits of shared interests, values and resources. Xi reiterated that the “Belt and Road” will help countries align their development strategies and complement infrastructure which already exists, with no intention of replacing current mechanisms or initiatives for regional cooperation.
Stressing that the “Belt and Road” initiatives and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are both open initiatives, Xi said all countries along the routes in Asia, as well as China’s friends and partners around the world, are welcomed to take an active part in these endeavors.
The Silk Road Economic Belt is to be established along the ancient Silk Road trade route, stretching northwest from China’s coastal area through Central Asia on to Europe, while the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will run from China’s south to Southeast Asia and even Africa. The vision, once realized, will directly benefit 4.4 billion people, or 63 percent of the global population. So far, more than 60 countries along the routes and international organizations have shown interest in taking part in the two initiatives.
The “Belt and Road” Initiative is in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
It is heartening that the “One Belt, One Road” project holds great promise for the people of Pakistan, as it incorporates the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is going to be game changer for the people of Pakistan and the region. The theme of the Boao Forum, “Towards a Community of Common Destiny” is certainly a befitting theme because it meets the aspirations of the people for a better future and a win-win strategy for all.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily