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The Belt and Road: connecting hearts

By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif | | Updated: 2017-05-13 17:42

Nothing gives me more pleasure than to be in China- my second home - a country Pakistanis love from the core of their souls. This world as we know it - from times immemorial has strived to connect. Humanity understood in its very early stages that without travel and trade, and without gathering knowledge from lands nearby and afar, its progress was not possible. Progress of course translates into survival and connectivity ensured our survival.

As world leaders and leading intellectuals gather in Beijing at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, we see two trends emerging on the global stage; regions that are talking of isolationism and regions that are embracing global cooperation and greater connectivity. Mercifully we live in the region that is open to connectivity and closer ties.

President Xi Jinping's visionary concept to bring the world closer and enhance global cooperation, be it in trade, commerce and finance or education, science and technology or simply more meaningful interaction between the global populace is essentially about progress; it is about keener understanding of each other; it is basically about our survival as a united community.

The old Silk Routes of trade also acted as conduits for exchange of ideas and spread of knowledge - the channels of diplomacy - through which empires talked with each other. The economies of our time and of our future need the same very routes; the same connections to carry out exactly the same functions but indeed duly in sync with our time. New roads, new rail roads, new sea ports and better air links are needed. In addition, our economies need to be ready for better cyber-connectivity as well, for this would provide better, faster and more robust flow of information, enhance global knowledge, augment our banking and commerce and above all bring our cultures closer.

Pakistan is a proud partner of China on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC). The framework came into being inspired by President Xi Jinping and has become an international benchmark of how nations can collaborate to uplift living standards across borders.

As the Belt and Road concept becomes a reality in different regions across the breadth of Asia, Mideast and further into Europe, I am sure that experience gathered from CPEC shall be found extremely useful.

In the past years, I have had the distinct honor of meeting with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and the members of Communist Party of China on many occasions. I am thrilled by their sense of a shared destiny, their determination to connect the world and truly ensure that each and every region across the Belt and Road project becomes a true beneficiary of the fruits of global collaboration.

This concept of 'shared destiny' comes from a place of serious goodwill and deep respect for others. It is not possible to share a future with anyone unless we treat them as our very own. We are all one. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our shared world and its beauty, the richness of its many cultures and its massive bounties are all ours to enjoy, share and celebrate. To articulate this on the global stage required a statesman of President Xi's stature and we are fortunate that he's done it with due passion and we see immaculate follow-through of his vision at every level in China and in China's policy abroad.

The fruits of success of such connectivity are indeed manifold, as it emanates from the idea of a 'shared destiny'. It naturally helps align the world to take care of its collective treasures - the most important of it being the ENVIRONMENT. The air we breathe, the land we live on and water we need to survive; these are all shared assets that need to be taken care of. This collaboration no doubt shall help us all think deeper about our environment and to take due steps to keep it in good order.

The Belt and Road connects almost 3 billion people in a string of multi-level collaborations. Never has humanity been ever connected together in this format before. This provides great avenues of cooperation from healthcare to human development and training; from cultural exchanges and celebration of life to ensuring safety and security. So much is possible under this umbrella. We can all imagine that such close ties shall ensure global peace and promote tolerance and harmony between regions and religions, states and polities, for tolerance is key to stability and without stability there can be no success.

In Pakistan, various projects are being carried out at a great speed and at an unprecedented levels of transparency under the Belt and Road banner called the CPEC. Come see the highways from the rooftops of the mighty Himalayas to the vast lands of Balochistan and the port of Gwadar at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz - from gigantic power plants, many of which have already come into test running to our extensive industrial parks.

Pakistan is a proud example of collaboration with China and a vision we are all here to celebrate today. We keenly look forward to playing your proud hosts.

The writer is Chief Minister of Punjab Province of Pakistan.

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