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Statement by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs at the thematic session on "Connectivity of Think Tanks" 14 May 2017, Beijing, China

(2017-05-14) Honourable Chairperson,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The One Belt One Road (OBOR) concept is the most significant transformative initiative in recent human history. Through focus on connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, and connectivity ofpolicy, trade and finance, we are observing a phenomenon which has few historical parallels. This initiative is a harbinger of shared hopes, common prosperity and win-win cooperation among the people of the World. In a civilizational sense, the true impact of this initiative will be in the realm of thoughts, ideasand cultures. The Think Tanks are the breeding grounds for these elements. Hence, this dialogue of Think Tanks is an extremely important, cross-cutting segment of the OBOR Summit.

Pakistan lauds the spirit of the OBOR initiative. The concept of shared partnerships,and voluntary cooperation are the basic principles of the Belt and Road Vision. China has created the necessary cooperative mechanisms and brought its intellectual, technological and financial resources to make it a reality. It is for us, the participating countries of this Forum, to carry this initiative forward and play our due role in realizing its true potential.

Through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is privileged to be the first flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative. CPEC is making excellent progress. In its first phase the focus is on building the requisite infrastructure and establishing connectivity. Simultaneously, several energy generation and distribution projects have been launched. Gwadar port is being developed as the corner stone of OBOR. Establishment of several Special Economic Zones is an important part of CPEC. Chinese Government, state owned corporations and financial institutions are providing funds, technology and support to CPEC projects. Gas and Oil terminals will distribute energy throughout Pakistan and pipelines could be set up for transporting oil and gas to Western China. This important flagship project would lead to not just national but regional development through connectivity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we proceed forward in implementing these projects, the role of academia, scholars, experts and think tanks would become increasingly important. Connectivity of ideas through exchange of information, mutual learning and joint research, among the OBOR countries would be very useful in sharing experiences and lessons learned. Pakistan is willing to share its experiences with the think tanks community. Pakistani think tanks have already established deep rooted linkages with their counterparts in China. These linkages have helped in mutual understanding of the vision of OBOR and focusing on complementarities between the people of the two countries.

The Think Tanks of China and the OBOR countries need to come together and utilize their combined intellectual resources. Through collective wisdom, we can explore following pivotal elements of OBOR and focus on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead:

Firstly, the revival of the ancient Silk Road has been a passionate dream for billions of people of Eurasia. President Xi Jinping's vision has brought realization to this dream. This quest to rediscover and revive the bonds at the level of the people has solid historical and civilizationalunderpinnings. The think tanks need to further explore the historical and cultural linkages and find ways to link today's realities with them.

Secondly, the OBOR Initiative comes at a time when we are witnessing major changes on a global scale. At this juncture, the evolving negative considerations of geo-politics, anti-globalization sentiments, protectionist barriers to the free movement of people and goods, ethno-centric nationalism and xenophobia have to be countered.

Thirdly, for the vast majority of developing states, the OBOR signifies a new wave of globalization propelled by the East which is infused by Asian values. However, this win-win cooperation is intended to lead to a harmonious development of both east and the west. The think tanks can identify common objective and priorities between East and the West.

Fourthly, a broad spectrum of opportunities is offered by OBOR. Exploring the entire range of possibilities is a task that think tanks must fulfill. Be it trade, finance, infrastructure, or technology; the potential is immense. It is up to us to explore this potential.

Fifthly, national development policies and priorities of all participating countries would naturally be different, keeping in view national circumstances and local condition. The think tanks can explore how the OBOR policy initiatives and national development policies can be harmonized.

Sixthly, broader oversight of this initiative by the Think Tanks would also be helpful in making the requisite adjustments in the course of the Initiative. This, in turn, would require identification of obstacles and any adverse consequence of different projects. Constructive criticism can lead to improvement and amelioration of such initiatives. OBOR is a long term initiative. The Think Tanks would be pivotal in ensuring the continuous evolution of its basic principle and positive impact in the light of actual experience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

People-to-People exchange through think tanks can provide opportunities for cross-cultural linkages, improved understanding of each other's concerns, core interests, sensitivities and then finding common grounds.

On the concrete way forward, I would like to propose an annual gathering of selected Think Tanks of OBOR countries. Such an annual gathering, brining together academia, experts, scholars and practitioners from every walk of life, would provide an immense opportunity for shared introspection and collective wisdom. Thus, we can develop a global pool of experts, who can help all of us to realize the full potential of OBOR.

In conclusion, may I emphasize that in today's inter-connected world, our focus should be on leaving behind a legacy of connectivity, shared destiny and win-win cooperation for the coming generations. I congratulate the Chinese government, its leadership and most of all the people of China, for their efforts in laying the foundation of such a legacy for mankind.

I thank you.