Three-Day International Conference on ‘’Significance of the Belt & Road Initiative in Regional Connectivity” at the University of the Punjab, Lahore,

Three-day International Conference (6th– 8th July 2022) on ‘’Significance of the Belt & Road Initiative in Regional Connectivity’’ at University of the Punjab, Lahore, jointly organized by Regional Integration Center, University of the Punjab, Lahore & Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to Pakistan.

The conference has established an extensive link between regional stakeholders and also enhanced people-to-people contacts for the understanding of the significance of regional cooperation through BRI. It proved to be a great avenue to formulate a future road map under BRI for the legal framework. Panellists and experts from the Eurasian region, BRI partner countries and Pakistan have participated in the conference.

The third day of the Conference was conducted in five sessions. The first policy dialogue session No. 1-A commenced with the participation of the leading national academia and scholars. The topic of this session was “Prioritizing economic policy options and strategic choices during the global recession among BRI states”.

The session was presided by Mr. Kamran Ashraf, Group Head Retail and Branch Banking, Summit Bank Limited.
Mr. Zulfiqar Ali (Director, PM office for CPEC, Lahore) welcomed all the speakers for participating in the working session. He was confident that this platform will contribute to the development of BRI and CPEC. He said that the government of Pakistan is committed to removing the hurdles in the way of CPEC.

Mr.  Slobadan Popovic, Research Associate, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, Serbia stated that the BRI is an outstanding project. He argued that the Chinese model of the economy needs more study. He was of opinion that the recession has not yet become a major threat. He urged that China needs to be more open to the global community.

Prof. Mathew McCartney, BA (Cantab), MPhil (Oxon), Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Pakistan, UK suggested that we need to quantify the positive benefits of the CPEC and BRI projects. In that way, we would be able to evaluate our success. The academia and scholars should be given access to the documents related to these projects.

Prof. Dr. Esra Hatipoglu, Advisor to the Rector of Bahcesehir University, Turkiye stated that the issue of recession is very critical. She explained that the government of Turkey through its Ministry of Commerce is working hard for the development of BRI. Turkey is focusing on both trade and logistics.

Prof. Dr. Zafar Ahmad, Professor, Hailey College of Commerce, University of Punjab, Lahore explained the role of universities in the development of BRI. He stated that these institutions are the hub of talented people and ideas which could definitely boost the project.

Engr. Siddiq Ur Rehman Rana, CEO, Technology Exchange and Coordination Ltd talked about the greening of BRI. He explained that China is moving from value addition to a high-tech economy. Thus, we need to connect with the BRI countries at all levels.

Mr. Saifullah, PhD Scholar, Punjab University, Lahore (Native of Afghanistan) stated that a lot of Chinese investment is going on especially in the mining industry in Afghanistan. He added that his government is also collaborating with the Central Asian states, Iran and Turkey in the transport and logistics areas.

Dr. Fouzia Hadi Ali, Director, Regional Integration Centre, University of Punjab, Lahore stated that the economy is the backbone of the peace and prosperity in the region. She suggested that we need to map Pakistan economically to plan our exports for the BRI countries. Besides commodities, services should be exported to other countries and especially the BRI states.

Mr. Waqar Shair, School of Economics, University of Punjab, Lahore explained the recession issue. He suggested that the financial sector should be more stable. The foreign exchange market and the money market should be given importance by policymakers. He added that collaboration among the BRI countries could solve this issue.

Dr. Kamran Yusif Oglu Eyyubov, Head of the Department of Finance & Management, Baku State University, Azerbaijan stated that we need to give more importance to microeconomics. SMEs should be given importance. The indigenous trading companies of the BRI countries should be encouraged to collaborate and coordinate with each other.

Mr. Noorullah, Senior Marketing Manager, Geo & Jang Group explained the role of media. He stated that generally, the media in Pakistan has a positive attitude towards the BRI project. In spite of that media should be responsible, vigilant and educative regarding this project.

After the speeches, a question-answer session was held in which the audience interacted with the experts. In the end, Presiding Chair, Mr. Kamran Ashraf, Group Head Retail and Branch Banking, Summit Bank Limited summarized the suggestions given by the speakers. He appreciated their views and hoped for their implementation by the relevant policymakers.

Prof. Dr. Saleem Mazhar, Conference Patron & Vice-Chancellor, University of Punjab, Lahore distributed the certificates among the speakers.

Online Session with International Experts
The session entitled ‘’Significance of the Belt & Road Initiative in Regional Connectivity” was held on 8th July 2022. It was moderated by Ms. Mehreen Gul, Deputy Director, Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future. She warmly welcomed the distinguished guest speakers.

Mr. Xu Wenhong, Deputy General Secretary, One Belt One Road Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China discussed the multiple impacts of BRI on the regional countries. The topic of his talk was related to outlining the global impact of BRI and its efficiency in the 21st century. He cast light upon globalization as the biggest challenge of modern times. He also suggested ways for joint collaboration among countries in this evolving time period.

Dr. ZHONG, Wanchu, Research Fellow of Institute for a Community with Shared Future, Communication University of China, Beijing, China discussed the parameters of the contemporary world to assess the geo-strategic architectures of BRI state partners. She discussed how it would leave an impact on direct foreign investment and boost the economy.

Professor Deqiang Ji, Deputy Dean, Institute for a Community with Shared Future, Communication University of China, Beijing, China discussed the significance of BRI and the role of China in the next phase of globalization. He referred to economic fluctuation, uneven development, international dysfunctionality and disconnected dialogue in the contemporary world. He also proposed ways in which China is providing assistance to countries to enhance development.

Lecturer Yang Rui, Expert in International Studies and Researcher of Pakistan Research Center of the Communication University of China, Beijing discussed the challenges and opportunities for accomplishing BRI and its projects. She highlighted three main aspects, i.e., the first one, focused on the achievements of BRI. Secondly, she explained the risks and challenges BRI faces today. Thirdly, she described the new opportunities which will be offered to Pakistan through BRI.

Ms. Dongzhu Zhuong shared his views about the response to zoobiquity and the common mission of the well-being of humanity. She talked about the history of viruses and diseases and how they took the lives of millions of people in the time of antiquity. She referred the attention to the fact that we have to take some measures to prevent the world from infectious diseases in the future.

Prof. Dr. HAO, Qingyun School of Ethnology, Northeastern University at Qinhuangdao, Hebei, China talked about the exploration of the expansion of the old silk road to Northeast Asia in the 7th to 10th centuries. He discussed the role of the Bohai kingdom in the construction of the Silk Road Bohai Section and how it became the base of trade and cultural activities.

Prof Dr. Veclal Gündüz, Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Social Sciences & Head of the Banking and Finance Department discussed the role of digitalization in finance beyond the borders. In this respect, stated that the occurrence of e-commerce and mobile banking due to globalization and technological revolution have interconnected. She also discussed social media apps as a new means for the quick exchange of information and data.

Ms. Khanisa, M.A., Researcher Center for Politics, National Research and Innovative Agency (BRIN), Indonesia discussed about the study of synergizing MPAC and BRI. She talked about the cooperation between China and ASEAN with the aim to create connectivity through BRI. She also explained the challenges that need to be overcome by taking different measures.

Dr. Dinna Prapto Raharja, Ph. D, Founder of Synergy Policies, Indonesia highlighted the significance of BRI for developing countries. She stated that Indonesia welcomed BRI and is ready to enhance cooperation with China. She was of the view that the most important thing that needs to be done is that both China and Indonesia should engage with the stakeholders, and take their inputs and think tanks to determine challenges in the way of cooperation and connectivity.

Mr. Mustafa Cem Koyuncu. Senior Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies, Turkey talked about the importance of the Middle Corridor in the light of current developments. He stated that Turkey views BRI as a major step toward sustainable economic growth and regional connectivity. He also discussed how Middle Corridor starts from China by passing through the Central Asian States.

Miguel Álvarez de Eulate, Director General, Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (FESEI) discussed the benefits of regional connectivity through BRI and touched upon some of the challenges in the changing global landscape. He also stated that we have created a world in which there is a fear and trust deficit. He pointed out that as long as we are not going to address these issues, we will not be able to grasp the benefits of such projects of regional connectivity.

The session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Rehana Saeed Hashmi, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Punjab. She appreciated the efforts of all speakers and shared her thoughts on the main theme of the session.

Working session 2
The theme of this session was “Importance of Connectivity in the Contemporary Era: Exploring Socio-Economic, Academic, and Tourism Cooperation”. It was presided by Prof. Dr. Saleem Mazhar, Conference Patron & Vice-Chancellor, University of the Punjab, Lahore.

The session started with the briefing of Dr. Fouzia Hadi Ali, Director, Regional Integration Centre, University of Punjab, Lahore about the role of RIC. She stated that a number of seminars and conferences have been conducted by this forum. This centre has worked a lot on connectivity and collaboration.

H.E Adam Mulawarman Tugio, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Pakistan thanked the organizers for inviting him to this prestigious conference. He stated that we are living in a global village and Indonesia and Pakistan have a geostrategic location and they should collaborate with each other in trade connectivity.

H.E Yerzhan Kistafin, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Pakistan stated that regional connectivity is important in today’s time. He assured us that although Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, it has a great potential of giving a chance for other BRI countries to connect through Kazakhstan.

  1. E Tamerlan Khalilov, Chargé d’affaires/ Deputy Head of Mission of the Azerbaijan Embassy to Pakistan stressed on the importance of regional connectivity and its impacts on the socio-economic, academic and tourism industry. He stated that Azerbaijan is fully prepared to participate in the BRI project. A video on Azerbaijan’s transport system was also shown to the audience.

Dr. Altaf Tahir, Company Secretary, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) gave his discourse on prospects of aviation connectivity under the BRI. He stated that PIA is giving services to 28 stations worldwide. PIA fully realizes that BRI will boost its market and it is preparing for future prospects.

Barrister Waqas Aziz Qureshi, Managing Partner, Transact Advisory Services, Islamabad briefed about the legalities of industrialization under CPEC. He explained the legal overview of the international and domestic laws pertaining to the CPEC. He suggested that CPEC must be marketed. There must be a CPEC centre in each of the embassies and start marketing it.

At the end of the session, shields were awarded to all the speakers and worthy ambassadors of various embassies.

 Closing Ceremony
In the closing ceremony of the 3-day international conference, Mr. Chaudhry Salik Hussain, Federal Minister for Board of Investment (Including Chinese & other FDI) and Special Initiatives was invited as a Chief Guest. He of the Punjab, Lahore and all other organizers on organizing the successful event. He stated that such events are important to integrate national/international experts into one forum.

Moreover, all the organizers thanked the foreign experts and other speakers/participants for making the event a big success. In the end, shields were presented to the main organizers as a token of appreciation. Moreover, all foreign experts also shared their views about Pakistan and the conference. The delegation praised the efforts of all organizers and showed a willingness to visit Pakistan.

The conference has been organized in collaboration with the Department of History & Pakistan Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Department of Political Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Bahçeşehir Cyprus University, Turkiye & Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future, Communication University of China, Beijing, China.

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