While Chinese minds created the vision that continues to grow into the Belt and Road initiative, the opportunities and benefits derived from participation in the history changing project will in reality transform other countries far more than it will transform China, a nation already well on the road to building a moderately prosperous society. Yet for a multitude of nations throughout the wider Afro-Eurasian space at various stages in their economic development, Belt and Road represents an opportunity to harness the kinetic economic power of an incredibly diverse set of nations and in so doing, it shall help to pool the strengths of each nation involved while allowing trans-national cooperation to supplement areas where more intensified development is required.
Because of this, it should not automatically fall to China alone to explain the benefits, purpose, challenges and opportunities inherent in an inter-continental project like Belt and Road. As a large neighbour of China and a country often described as an all-weather partner of Beijing, Pakistan is well placed to expound on the benefits of Belt and Road before international audiences and in so doing help to make a project that mutually benefits Pakistan and China into one that garners increased enthusiasm throughout the world.
While Pakistan’s new PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to acquaint itself with Pakistan’s long term and new international partners, all eyes were on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi whose address before the United Nations General Assembly was the first major geopolitical speech from a key figure in the new government since the historic election in July of this year.
In a wide ranging speech, the Pakistani Foreign Minister covered a wide variety of topics ranging from peace keeping initiatives abroad to the matter of finding a just solution to the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. But while Pakistan has long lamented the UN’s inertia in respect of bringing justice to the Kashmiris, Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s speech was by no means exclusively negative.
One of the main themes of Imran Khan’s campaign was fighting extremism not only through the tough security measures that Pakistan has implemented with great success but through draining the swamps of neglect, corruption and neo-feudalism in which extremism has been allowed to foment for decades throughout south Asia. Here, Qureshi invoked the phenomenon of peace through prosperity as a means of not only ending extremism in the short term but as a method of security long term sustainable development. The Foreign Minister stated,
“The strongest antidote to the poison of terrorism is development that yields
The vision of Belt and Road is a path-breaking initiative by a world leader of great sagacity and foresight to create a community of common destiny. It is a global common good beneficial to all. Our vision for China Pakistan Economic Corridor is to help translate our geo-strategic potential into geo-economic dividends.
Pakistan looks to offer the vital connectivity nodes linking the Middle East with western China, and affording Central Asia the shortest most feasible access to the Sea”.
By affirming Pakistan’s commitment to Belt and Road in the form of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan’s Foreign Minister also helped to explain that far from merely being a beneficiary of CPEC, the project will help to link Pakistan with historically fraternal civilians to the north and west as well as China to the north-east. Here, the clear subtext is that Pakistan looks to use CPEC as a means of enhancing partnerships throughout western Eurasia including with Iran and long time friend Turkey while also making inroads into the central Asian republics and Russia to the north as part of a multi-pronged set of economic partnerships that stretch from the border with China to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
At a time when those seeking to undermine Belt and Road are busily engaged in outrageous attempts to undermine the Sino-Pakistan relationship, it is all the more important for Pakistan to anticipate these provocations and clarify its own position as a leader rather than a mere participant in Belt and Road.
Below is Eurasia Future’s full report on the goals for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s forthcoming visit to China:
Ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road initiative in 2013, western policy makers and their de-facto propagandists across corporate media outlets have been looking for a Sinophobic narrative through which to persuade the nations of Asia and Africa to shun Beijing’s flagship project for modern global inter-connectivity in a new era of peace through prosperity. As the prestige of Belt and Road continued to grow throughout the wider Afro-Eurasian space since 2013, many of the obtuse neo-liberal economic arguments against Belt and Road as well as the all out racist campaigns against the initiative (many of which continue to derive from America’s new Asian ally India) tended to fall flat. This was the case both because of the totally unconvincing nature of the arguments themselves and due to the fact that while Belt and Road is a long term initiative whose benefits will be most profoundly felt in the decades to come, the west has neither a more immediate nor a more sustainable concrete alternative to Belt and Road.
As a result, Indo-western arguments pointing to the fact that it is somehow a bad thing that China’s model empowers partner nations to take a share of responsibility in joint projects in exchange for a shared portion of the profits, have also done little overall to tarnish global enthusiasm for Belt and Road as examples such as that of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port continue to be misunderstood exceptions which prove the rule of win-win outcomes among Belt and Road partners.
Due to the fact that the economic and racist arguments did not succeed in making Afro-Eurasian leaders reconsider their future in Belt and Road, western black propagandists instead devised a supremely cynical narrative designed to sow a rift between China and the Ummah – the global community of Islamic majority nations and Muslim men and women. Forgetting the fact that the United States has invaded more Islamic majority nations in the 21st century than all other global powers combined, the attempt to now hide behind the Nobel Quran in an calculated effort to wage a global infowar against China appears to be the most challenging western salvo against Belt and Road to date.
The China vs. Ummah false dichotomy being sown in the US and its partner nations is at present, primarily focused on widely misunderstood issues regarding the events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state as well as those in China’s Xinjiang province. In respect of Xinjiang, the western narrative has reached peak absurdity. Where in reality, Beijing has proud millions of dollars into both infrastructural, human and cultural development in Xinjiang in order to counter-extremism and generally elevate the condition of the people, various vocational training programmes, the likes of which exist throughout much of inland China have been described as “concentration camps for Muslims”. Simultaneous to this, Britain’s ultra-liberal Independent newspaper even ran a fake news story stating that the Muslims of Xinjiang are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol by the authorities. These are of course the same liberal media outlets decrying China’s social reform programmes throughout the country which actually crack down on those who purchase copious amounts of alcohol.
But forgetting the absurdity of the claims regarding Xinjiang, the rumours have already spread like wildfire in many parts of the wider Ummah. This was of course the intent of the black propaganda. I previously wrote that Pakistanis owe a special duty to themselves as Muslims and to fraternal partners of neighbouring China in respect of combating this infowar. Furthermore, a readily available piece by the Pakistani author and scholar S M Hali should be widely distributed among Muslim populations throughout Asia and Africa which describes his own highly positive first hand experiences in Xinjiang. By contrast, virtually all of the anti-Beijing articles authored about Xinjiang are written by those who have never visited Xinjiang let alone spoken to ordinary people in the province.
The second area where western black propagandists have been attempting to sow discord between China and the Ummah is in Myanmar. As part of the decades long civil conflict in the country formerly known as Burma, atrocities in Rakhine state have seen a humanitarian crisis transpire where Rohingya Muslims have had to flee across the border (in some cases back across the border) to Bangladesh after local Buddhists influenced violence against their communities. While the US and some Muslim leaders have blamed the government of Myanmar for the atrocities, such statements have yet to be substantiated by any verifiable facts from the ground. In reality, the atrocities appear to be an amalgamation of a long running regional conflict which the government of Myanmar perhaps could and should have done more to prevent violence (at this particular stage especially). That being said, to unilaterally direct specific blame for the atrocities at the feet of the government is a gross simplification of a wider set of conflicts that have raged since 1948.
China has already helped to calm the situation in Rakhine by proposing a three step peace process whose implementation is already underway. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke of the peace process during a speech made yesterday before the UN General Assembly in the following way:
“The issue involving Rakhine State of Myanmar cannot be resolved overnight, and steady progress needs to be made through a three-phased process involving cessation of violence, return of displaced persons and economic development. Myanmar and Bangladesh are inseparable neighbors, and could well be inseparable partners. Yesterday, at my meeting with colleagues from Myanmar and Bangladesh and also in the presence of Secretary-General Guterres, agreement was reached between Myanmar and Bangladesh on accelerating the return of the first batch of displaced persons. We believe Myanmar and Bangladesh are capable of resolving this issue properly through friendly negotiations”.
Yet in spite of China’s well-reasoned, multilateral and constructive approach to the crisis in Rakhine, the west has largely succeeded in whipping up fear among Muslims with the aim to re-direct anger currently levelled at the government of Myanmar onto China, owing to China’s role as a neutral arbitrator of peace that has refused to irresponsibly issue emotional statements regarding a matter that can only be solved through a logical and realistic approach.
This is why Imran Khan’s visit to China is crucial not only for the future of Sino-Pakistan relations but for the wider relationship between Beijing the the Ummah. Pakistan’s relationship with China is well known as an all-weather friendship while under Imran Khan, Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan) looks to resurrect its long neglected goal of being a leading voice among the Ummah as the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah originally intended it to be.
As such, Imran Khan’s voice is one that can and should be used to demonstrate the reality that China is already a far better friend to Islamic majority nations seeking an independent path to sustained economic and human development than Beijing’s rivals and that furthermore, while the US and its allies have exuded a neo-colonial influence on much of the Islamic world, China’s relationship towards Muslims abroad and those in Xinjiang is one based on respect and enlightenment.
Already, western media outlets have begun attempting to drive a wedge between China and public opinion in Pakistan as a means of derailing Imran Khan’s new era in neighbourly relations. While it is true that like Malaysia, Pakistan’s new anti-corruption government looks to reverse some of the vanity projects of the previous corruption prone government, including some such projects involving Chinese businesses, prominent western media outlets have already misconstrued such statements from Islamabad as indicating a tendency among the new government to somehow halt progress on the game changing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The reality is nothing of the sort. Any revision in CPEC related projects in Pakistan has everything to do with the government of Imran Khan’s relationship to that of his corrupt predecessor just as similar revisions to Sino-Malaysian projects has everything to do Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s relationship to his scandal pron predecessor. In neither case do such revisions reflect a change in Pakistan nor Malaysia’s positive relations with China.
While Pakistani officials will therefore need to chose their words carefully when speaking about CPEC so as to not give Pakistan’s enemies rhetorical ammunition in the course of making statements which can be misrepresented in the hostile western press, Pakistan’s leaders must also make a concerted effort to tell the entire world that Belt and Road is an asset to all Afro-Eurasian nations seeking long term sustainable development and that for the Islamic world in particular, there is no schism between Islamic values and Chinese values. In reality both sets of values can help compliment each other on the win-win model that the western colonisers of Asia and Africa seek to once again exploit for their own unilateral gain.