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Ambassador Shahid Amin,
Mr. Ahsan Mukhtar Zubairi,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen!


I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished gathering, and I thank the organizers for their gracious invitation.

The Karachi Council on Foreign Relations is rendering an invaluable service by promoting quality research and providing a platform for serious policy discourse.

I would also like to commend Dr. Talat Ayesha Wizarat for her excellent work on “Reviving Historical Trade Routes: Case Study of Silk Road – Gateway to China.” The paper is as significant in its substance, as it is in its timing.

Dr. Wizarat has deftly analyzed the revival of historical trade routes by looking at the complex interplay of political feasibility, security imperatives, economic viability, and patterns of demand. She has also rightly emphasized other vital factors such as economic compatibility, affordability, interdependence, and ability of partners to sustain the system.

While pointing out that revival of trade routes may entail reactivation of concerns and jealousies of the past, she is right in stressing that the revival carries a much greater potential for transforming regional politics into a more cooperative framework.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

History shows that inter-regional and intra-regional trade has been one of the driving forces in ushering in prosperity and progress of mankind. Besides enhancing prospects for material well-being, the trade routes have played a crucial role in facilitating exchange of ideas and deepening of civilizational links.

The ancient Silk Road, one of the most famous of such routes, was a great channel through which scores of countries exchanged goods, cultural traditions, and creative ideas. It played a unique role in promoting foreign trade and fostering political and cultural ties in Asia and beyond.

The advent of modern technologies and development of alternate routes gradually pushed this historical route into relative disuse. But the evolving geo-political realities and growing primacy of economic priorities has catapulted this relic of the past into a modern-day imperative.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This brings me to the vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which sees peace and development as inextricably linked and having China, as an indispensible partner in our quest for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood, at the center of this idea.

One of the earliest steps taken by the Prime Minister, after taking office in June 2013, was to conclude the MoU on establishing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that would connect Pakistan with China’s Western regions, through a network of roads, railways and fiber-optic linkages.

Pakistan and China see the Corridor as a potential catalyst for regional economic integration – besides fostering regional harmony and closer relations between China and its neighbours. The CPEC has direct relevance to Dr. Wizarat’s theme of revival of historical trade routes, especially the Silk Road, which, as she points out, commenced with the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH).

The CPEC is an outcome of that vision. It is a natural complement to President Xi Jinping’s vision, which envisages building a “Silk Road Economic Belt” and a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”

The CPEC would give China access to the Indian Ocean and the Middle East, through the Gwadar Port. It would also dovetail with China’s strategy for invigorating its inland, less developed regions, like Xinjiang. It would reinforce the objective of enhanced connectivity between China and Pakistan — for expanding trade and economic cooperation, promoting economic integration, and fostering economic development of the two countries.

The CPEC would bring prosperity to the peoples of four regions – China, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. For Pakistan, China’s growth and intensifying outreach to West and Central Asia presents a unique opportunity to shift our economic trajectory to a higher plane by becoming integrated into China’s Eurasian transportation network.

As someone intimately involved with the process, I take pride in informing this distinguished group that we are making sound progress on implementing the various infrastructure, transport and energy projects envisioned under the CPEC. Several projects have already been inaugurated while others are set for launch in 2015. We expect that most of these projects to be completed by 2018.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Beyond the CPEC, we are also working on a number of road and rail connectivity projects with Afghanistan, which would be extended to Central Asia.
Besides rail links between Torkham and Jalalabad and Chaman and Spinboldak, the Peshawar-Kabul motorway has been included in the projects to be pursued on priority.

With Iran, our efforts continue – both for the up-gradation of road and rail links (Quetta-Taftan) and the opening of new border crossing points (Gabd-Reemdan and Mand-Pishin) to facilitate trade and related economic activities.

Negotiating process has recently commenced for trilateral transit trade arrangements among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. We are also working on the proposal to connect Pakistan and Tajikistan via land route through Afghanistan and to facilitate Tajikistan’s access to the sea through Pakistan’s seaports.

Yet another important instrument is the Quadrilateral Agreement on Traffic-in-Transit among Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrghzstan. Tajikistan is also desirous of joining this agreement, which would further enhance the cause of regional connectivity and promote mutually beneficial economic activity.

We are also pursuing several trans-regional energy projects like CASA-1000, TAPI, and Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. These would help strengthen Pakistan’s energy security and advance national economic development goals.

It cannot be stressed enough that cooperation and coordination in the trade and economic spheres is a win-win proposition, offering rich dividends to all participants. This would strengthen our common stake in peace, and reinforce efforts for development in the region.

I am confident that these mega projects would synergize the economic strengths of regional countries and usher in a new era of enhanced trade, economic cooperation and energy collaboration in the region and beyond. In other words, it would advance our vital goals of regional stability and shared prosperity.

I thank you!

2nd February, 2015

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