“21st Century Maritime Silk Road: An Economic Win-Win for SCO and Pakistan”
It was wonderful to listen to young Pakistani scholar Sahibzada Muhammad Saeed on the first day addressing the forum “Role of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and SCO”. The medium of his presentation was English which was translated into Chinese and Russian languages for participants. His speech goes as follows:-
Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Gentlemen and ladies! It is an immense pleasure that I am talking at this remarkable forum on which the pioneers of their domains are participating. Today we gathered to discuss the options for cooperation and coordination. Today we gathered to discuss the future of Asia and the people of Asia. And it is important to discuss because 21st Century is the Asian century. And thanks to the University of Shanghai and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for providing us with an amazing platform to discuss all these things.
If we discuss the role of international organizations in international relations we can say that International organizations (IOs) are the bodies which are formed for mutual cooperation and coordination between different states. IOs are considered responsible for keeping peace and stability in the world in terms of their efforts for making the international community economically, socially and politically sustainable and peaceful. In fact, International organizations actually provide a platform to member states to increase coordination to attain common goals by respecting their sovereign status. These Organizations provide an institutional framework for cooperation, integration and interdependence.
As we all know that Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a permanent international organization which was evolved out of the ‘Shanghai Five Mechanism’ on June 15, 2001. Role of SCO has remained very successful in promoting collaboration cooperation between the member states in politics, economy, energy and transportation.Especially, SCO remained very effective in the settlement of border disputes between Commonwealth of Independent States.
Mainly, SCO focuses on promoting healthy relations among the member states and ensuring peace, security and stability in the region. It emphasizes on strengthening mutual confidence and effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy. Along with it, SCO encourages collaboration in science and technology. While, cooperation in the field of energy, transportation, tourism and culture are essentially focused on its agenda.
As far as Regional peace and stability is concerned, SCO has the principle stance to fight against three evils; which are defined as terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The organization asserts to enhance mutual cooperation and coordination in fighting against these three evils.
The 21st century Maritime Silk Road idea was presented by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his speech in the Indonesian Parliament in 2013. This is a marvellous idea of connectivity via sea in order to re-establish ancient Maritime Silk Road by connecting Southeast Asia with Africa and Europe. The maritime Silk Road starches from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Adan. It is an important project for establishing ports and shipyards on indo-pacific main sea lane of communication. It is not only beneficial for China but also for other regional states especially for developing states. In order to fund the project, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has been established with the fund of 100 Billion USD for infrastructure development work across the main Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs).
Pakistan and SCO
SCO member states and Pakistan have shared interests and common threats to tackle. We have multiple geopolitical and geostrategic commonalities.Along with it, Pakistan’s geographical position, historical and cultural background makes it a valuable member of the organization. Pakistan lies at the tri-junction of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. The prime location of Pakistan can effectively act as a bridge between SCO and the rest of the world.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is almost 2500 km long road, rail and pipeline network from the coastal city Gwadar to Chinese Xinjiang has been declared the “flagship” project of OBOR. Gwadar is the prime component of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road because of the prime geo-economic location at the strait of Hurmuz with the trait of the deep sea port, has the huge capacity for shipping goods and material.
CPEC and Gwadar are not only beneficial for Pakistan or China rather these projects are the game changers for the whole region. I am confident to say that CPEC has the capacity to provide easy access to Middle Eastern and North African energy resources for China.Likewise, Pakistan could give easy and open seas to landlocked central Asian Republics through CPEC and Gwadar.
Similarly, although the relationship between India and Pakistan are not satisfactory, India could take benefits from CPEC. Especially, as we know that India is emerging economy and has massive energy needs. Particularly India is interested to access hydrocarbon resources of Central Asia. But because of no direct geographical proximity with Central Asian Republics (CARs), Indian dream couldn’t come true.But Most of the CARs are the member of SCO and India and Pakistan has recently joined this club. So, under the institutional framework of SCO India can acquire easy access to Central Asian Republics via CPEC. But before all these ventures, India will have to come to the negotiation table to resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan.
Challenges and Prospects
China’s Maritime Silk Road though intends to bring economic prosperity, equal opportunities for everyone and aims to minimize high-end political issues – has numerous potential dangers towards its successful execution.
Especially, Tug of war among powerful states on an international level for geostrategic, geopolitical influence and economic leverage. When one state wants to increase its regional power then rival state resists. And here I will like to quote Carl von Clausewitz that “War is ultimately a conflict of wills”. If states have no verification in the will then the situation will defiantly conflictive in nature. Along with it, some states are reluctant to participate in Belt and Road initiative. So their reluctance could create hurdles in the developmental plans of China.
Similarly, there are some other socio-economic challenges especially in the shape of poverty and unemployment in the region. In the host countries where China is going to invest are less developed countries. And hostile propaganda against these Chinese initiatives take leverage that for instance, China is taking more benefits, China is indulged in signing secretive agreements with the elites of host countries, China is not installing environment-friendly industry, locals would not be beneficial from these projects etc. In this regard, I will give the example of Sri Lanka that their government has reviewed the agreements on Hambantota port. So for betterment and smooth completion of these projects China must publish all details of the agreements.
Along with challenges, there are various prospects of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Being a student of foreign policy I am aware of the fact that states are the rational actors and their actions predominantly based on the principle of accost-benefit analysis. Which means that wherever states move they move on the principle of rationality. Development projects like OBOR have the capacity to eliminate socio-economic challenges in the region. And for growing economic interdependence between states which has defiantly a positive spill-over effect that Integration in economic sector paves the way for integration in other sectors. Which will lead to prosperity and the prosperity would be for regional peace.
So along with prospects, I would like to conclude my remarks that 21st century Maritime Silk Road will involve a large volume of economic transport and it will economically connect many of SCO countries through ports development at their coastal cities.Likewise, this project will create a lot of job opportunities by increasing trade volume of developing countries and will increase mutual trade and economic growth.While Central Asian member countries of SCO that are landlocked will benefit by connecting with this project through CPEC by Silk Road Economic Belt.
One Belt One Road is the tree trunk and it will be completed its branches will cover the whole region. Ladies and gentlemen, 21st Century is Asia’s Century and China is an important player in Asia. Hence, let’s join hands and let it be completed it will be the great opportunity to attract and benefit people.
Thank you very much for listening.