Xi’an(China) Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Mail and Chairman of Pakistan-China Media friendship Association, Mr. Makhdoom Babar has said that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was the flagship project of Chinese leadership’s mega Initiative of One Belt One Road and therefore any attempt or plans to sabotage CPEC has to be considered as a bid to attack the One Belt One Road project.
Makhdoom Babar expressed these view while addressing an International Conference on Belt and Road Initiative, hosted by China’s State Council Information Office ( Information Ministry) and China International Publishing Corporation here at Xi’an the capital city of ancient China.
Makhdoom Babar said that there had been many attacks on CPEC and a regional State that itself is the member of One Belt One Road Initiative has openly been threatening to sabotage the CPEC. “ These threats must be deemed as direct threats to Belt and Road Initiative as CPEC is one of the core and most important projects under the belt and Road Initiative. The arrest of a serving Intelligence officer of a regional country by Pakistani security agencies who confessed of being deeply involved in terror activities in Pakistan with special target of sabotaging CPEC on the orders of his government is a clear proof that what sort of security challenges where there to this vital project under the Belt and Road Initiative”, expressed Mr. Makhdoom Babar.
He said that the ‘One Belt One Road’ and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiatives reflect the Chinese leadership’s policy of inclusive development, shared prosperity and harmonious growth. This was based on the idea of mitigating the adversity of globalization and provides a comprehensive platform of sharing the fruits of progress. The initiative encompasses augmenting economic, trade, Investment, academic, scientific, technological, cultural and people to people interactions among relevant countries.
“Another major achievement and reason for an overwhelming response to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and CPEC initiatives is that it seeks to integrate individual countries’ developmental plans. In finalizing the proposal, individual countries are outlining their economic and social developmental priorities and effort is being made to assimilate these in the overall initiative. Furthermore, issues of global concern such as climate change, maritime disaster prevention, prevention of maritime, aqua culture are also being given priority. Existing bilateral and multilateral maritime cooperation regime would be utilized to build up a partnership and where circumstances necessitate new mechanism can also be evolved to best utilize maritime resources and support affiliated industries, asserts Makhdoom Babar
Makhdoom Babar said that Another very important aspect in this regard was the security of sea routes. Piracy, abduction and kidnapping on the seas have become a major problem for the international community particularly for the countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Pakistan and China are both partners in the international coalition in fighting piracy and affiliated crime at the seas and have often taken coordinated action in this regard. Many other countries of the Maritime Silk Road are also participating in anti-piracy action. A coordinated platform in this regard under the Maritime Silk Road initiative would be in the benefit of all the participating countries and enhance their cooperation in non-traditional security threats.
‘The phenomenon of globalization has seen bulk of trading being conducted through oceans. The need for better maritime connectivity in the 21st Century is, therefore of significant importance for smooth flow of cargo. Huge investment in infrastructure would, however, be required to achieve this. China is already engaged with countries of the region in improvement of their port facilities as well as the downstream communication infrastructure. This engagement in building infrastructure including information network would prove to be a defining initiative as many countries in South East Asia, South Asia and Africa are cash strapped and are unable to finance in infrastructure and improvement, said Makhdoom Babar
Makhdoom Babar said that a major focus of the initiative was infrastructure built up that is best explained by a Chinese idiom “Better Roads Lead to better Lives”. In order to contribute to the Asian connectivity a reasonable number countries have signed an MOU on establishing and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank” with an initial capital of US$ 50 billion. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also participated in the meeting and it is one of the signatories. Besides, at a meeting on strengthening connectivity and improving cooperation in China’s neighborhood, on the sidelines of APEC in November 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping committed US$ 40 billion for `the “New Silk Road Fund”. This Fund will support to Asian countries for carrying out infrastructure, industrial, financial and other projects. In President Xi’s own words the Fund is to “break the bottlenecks in Asian connectivity any building financial platform”. He emphasizing that connectivity should be a three-way combination of infrastructure, institutions, and people-to-people exchanges leading to a five-way progress in policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade link, capital flow and understanding among people. President Xi significantly stated “Asian countries are like clusters of bright lanterns. Only when we link them together, we can light up the night sky on our continent”.
“ In Pakistan, we have the most important and rather the flagship project of One Belt One Road that is now known as China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan’s location is ideal to act as a conduit for regional trade. It provides the best viable Ocean route to Western China and landlocked Central Asia states with its opening to the Arabian Sea. The cargo destined for Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern countries can reach merely in a day from Pakistani seaports, whereas it can reach Africa in a couple of days. Pakistan can therefore serve as ‘Energy Corridor’ for petroleum resources from Gulf region to China, at the same time minerals explored by China from Africa can also reach its mainland in shortest possible time through Pakistan. Pakistan has signed GSP Plus agreement with EU thus many of Pakistan’s products can be exported to Europe on zero or very low duty. With Western China emerging as the new hub of manufacturing industry, Pakistan would again be the best route for Chinese exports to outside world including Europe. Pakistan can also be an alternate safe route for Chinese cargo currently going through Strait of Malacca, said Makhdoom Babar
Pakistan provides an ideal location for investment and trade due to its highly liberal policies. The two countries already enjoy Free Trade Agreements in Goods, Services and Investments. Total tariff lines of 7,550 are currently covered under the bilateral FTA. The FTA is now being re-negotiated to further liberalize and reduce bilateral tariffs. Pakistan is particularly well inclined towards Chinese investors and businessmen owing to our traditional fraternal relations and its policy towards Chinese enterprises has always remained most favorable.
He said that Establishment of economic and trade cooperation zones between China and Maritime Silk Road countries was an important aspect of the initiative. China and the riparian countries can cooperate in jointly building industrial parks. The focus of such parks could be a setting up industries according to the needs of the individual countries as well as cooperation in maritime industry such as Ship Building, Aqua Culture, Tourism, Fisheries as well as marine economic demonstration zones.
He added by saying that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Pakistan offer an investment opportunity unprecedented in the entire region. This applies to both; the Estate Developers intending to establish an SEZ or to the Enterprises wanting to setup a project in an existing SEZ. A minimum of 50 Acres of land is required to qualify for SEZ. The SEZ can be established by: (i) Federal or Provincial Government, (ii) Public Private Partnership (including Foreign Partner) and (iii) Privately established (including by Foreign Enterprises / Estate Developers). Duty free import of goods is allowed to Developers of SEZs for establishment and maintenance of the Zone. The Enterprises set up in the SEZs are also allowed import of capital goods; plants and machinery free of customs duty. Besides both the SEZs Developers and the Enterprises set up therein are exempt from income tax for a period of 10 years from the start of their project.
He said that Lucrative incentives are available for investment even outside the Special Economic Zones.Raw materials and machinery for agriculture and agro-based industry has 0% customs duty anywhere in the country. Manufacturing units outside the SEZs only have to pay 0-5% duty on imported plant and machinery. 50% first year depreciation allowance is applicable for all fixed assets. Industrial units bringing new technology to Pakistan for the first time are entitled to same tax privileges as applicable allowed in the SEZs. The Tourism, Housing, Construction and IT sectors have been given “Industry Status” making them eligible for lower taxes and utility rates (electricity, gas etc). All foreign investments are fully protected by domestic legislation. Pakistan also has a bilateral Investments Protection Agreement with China and Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation.
Being the sixth most populous state Pakistan has a large reservoir of highly professional, skilled and semi-skilled human resource. Median age in Pakistan is 22 years, making it country of Youth. Pakistan’s work force comprises of 110 million (60% of population). Minimum labour wages in Pakistan are merely between Rs. 7000 to 9000 (about RMB 600). Labour Force in Pakistan is very business friendly as compared to other countries of the region. Foreign investors are entitled to obtain land as per their requirement and they can transfer and sell it at will. The cost of land is much lower than China both in the developed Industrial zones/ SEZs and elsewhere. Numerous Industrial Estates all around the country have ready to use plots available for foreign investors.
“Several Chinese public and private sector corporations are engaged in mutually beneficial economic, investment and trade activities in Pakistan. These companies can testify their good business experiences and great reservoir of friendship for Chinese people in Pakistan. It is a manifestation of the confidence of the Chinese enterprises in Pakistan that companies like Haier and China Mobile selected Pakistan as their first destination for investment abroad. Some of the major Chinese enterprises in Pakistan include Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China National Petroleum Corporation, China Mobile, Huawei, ZTE, Orient Group, Metallurgical Corporation of China, Mindray, Haier, ChangHong, Foton, Chang’An, Qingqi, Yutong, Dongfeng etc. Besides, Chinese investors can benefit from financial facilities under Pakistan China 5-year Plan for Economic and Trade cooperation and EXIM Bank’s export support loans, said Makhdoom Babar
He added that merely the projects under the CPEC, clearly reflect that Belt and Road initiative is aimed at enhancing the economies of the nations and reshaping the lives of all the individuals. For example, Pakistan is suffering history’s worst energy crisis which has emerged as a major bottleneck for the industrial development and thus, apart from hampering national economy, it is also the main cause of rapidly increasing joblessness with both small and big industries getting shut or decreasing human resources due to non availability of electricity. The CPEC is mainly focusing on addressing the energy crisis with subsequent introduction of a variety of new industrial projects. This has given a brand new ray of hope for the general public of Pakistan and especially the poor people as on one side they are expecting the rise of local industry and on the other side they smell the arrival of new industry, a fact bound to create a haul of new job opportunities and fresh sources of income. Apart from traditional love between the peoples of Pakistan and China, CPEC has already started bonding both nations in a new bond of love as it is bringing a new and sustainable economic and financial future for every individual. This has in fact brought a new point of harmony and love by the people of Pakistan for the people of China. This very fact clearly indicates that wherever the projects under One Belt One Road and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road would be reaching, they would be bringing peace, harmony and sustainability and not any rivalry.
Makhdoom Babar said that since no mega project can go without being touched by conspiracies and fears by contemporary players, the Belt and Road and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives are no exception. If in the region, these initiatives are being confronted by conspiracies against CPEC than on the global level the conspiracies like escalation of South China Sea issue are challenging the smooth implementation of projects under these initiatives. If on one side, the whole world has witnessed as to who has been conspiring against One Belt One Road by organizing a sham and outrageous unilateral ‘Arbitration’ over the issue of South China Sea, then on the other side, Pakistani Security Forces have also made arrests of foreign elements who have admitted to working on plans to sabotage CPEC by the orders of their government. It is very unfortunate that some States, that are themselves members of One Belt One Road initiatives, are simultaneously conspiring against the most important component of One Belt One Road i.e. CPEC as their State policies and are on record to have confronted it officially.
This state of affairs calls for prompt, sincere and syndicated media efforts to the cause of these mega initiatives that are symbols of tranquility, stability, harmony, uplift and peaceful co-existence. Since media is considered as the fourth pillar of every society, it becomes the sole responsibility of media houses and individual media practitioners of the connected States to play their expected roles for the promotion and protection of these initiatives and projects related to these amazing initiatives. They are required to resist all the political confrontations and to counter all the conspiracies against these initiatives through professional media endeavors with collaborated efforts.
About Pak-China Media cooperation, Chief Editor of The Daily Mail said that Chinese media has set an example in this regard.” Just recently I attended the 2nd Global Media Cooperation Conferences at Beijing. This was the 2nd time that I had the honour of participating in this conference hosted by leading Chinese newspaper People’s Daily. The conference, that has become a permanent annual feature of getting the media bosses of all countries that are connected to Belt and Road, under one roof and to share ideas and views over the promotion of Belt and Road and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This experience has been very encouraging and productive as such endeavors provide spectacular opportunity to form media consensus over variety of issues, related to projects under Belt and Road initiative. It provides amazing atmosphere to listen to different media narratives over the issues related to Belt and Road and also come as a platform to media syndications for the cause of pushing Belt and Road Initiative. At such forums, media bosses and other journalists share their genuine views, irrespective of political views over the same issues back home. By virtue of this, such occasions become the most effective podiums to form joint narratives out of the scattered media narratives.
Apart from People’s Daily, other leading Chinese media organizations including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and CCTV etc are also making tremendous contributions in this direction. In fact China Radio International (CRI) has taken a quantum leap and has opened up an FM channel in Pakistan’s national language at Islamabad. This has emerged as a very effective medium to enhance the cause of belt and Road and its CPEC project as it is providing enhanced information about China and Belt and Road to the larger number of Pakistani audience. Engaging youth is very vital for the success of Belt and Road initiative and this effort of CRI is proving to be very productive for the cause. Similarly the Xinhua News Agency and CCTV have also expanded their respective networks in Pakistan after the launch of CPEC that indicates the professional farsightedness of Chinese media managers.
Taking initiative from Chinese media efforts, The Daily Mail has formed a unique media platform, titled, Belt and Road Media Council, to push and promote One Belt One Road initiative. The formation of Belt and Road Media Council will enable the members of the media community of all the connected countries to exchange news and articles on Belt and Road and to launch synchronized media campaigns when and where required. Apart from this, the Belt and Road Media Council will also play vital role in bringing maximum public awareness about the Belt and Road initiative to generate huge and continuous public support to keep pushing the projects under Belt and Road initiative. Headquartered, presently at Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, the Belt and Road Media Council will also organize seminars and workshops for the promotion of Belt and Road through sincere and professional efforts. The very warmly welcoming of Belt and Road Media Council by the participants of Global Media Summits at Beijing and the constantly growing number of the members from media organizations of all the Belt and Road members States has come as a very encouraging sign and has motivated us very strongly to move further with immense confidence.
Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily