This event was designed to rejoice the achievements thus far, discuss certain challenges and opportunities ahead, and most importantly to deliberate ways forward to improve this period of heightened cooperation. From Pakistan’s side the delegation included Kazi Asad Abid from All Pakistan Newspapers Agency (APNS) and Maj. Gen (R ) Masroor Ahmed, Col (R ) Khalid Taimoor from Centre for Global and Strategic Studies (CGSS). Additionally, Mumtaz Baloch, Deputy Chief of Mission from Pakistan Embassy in Beijing participated in the round table discussion.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Zhang, Editor-in-Chief Guangming Daily, spoke on taking joint responsibility of China- Pakistan community of shared destiny. Mr. Zhang highlighted the significance of timing of the forum, as we are not only celebrating the 5th anniversary of the BRI, but also the recent conclusion of the Boao Forum for Asia, during which President Xi and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi signed cooperation documents and exhibited confidence in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Mr. Abid, from APNS, also highlighted the importance of media in Pakistan as the most powerful shaper of public opinion nowadays. The need to utilize media for accurate coverage and to counter misconceptions warrant a coordinated media policy and a concrete plan. Ms. Mumtaz Baloch of the Pakistan Embassy discussed the importance of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in integration of regional trade routes, creation of synergies, and bringing development and prosperity.
Representatives from China’s key institutions such as Han Fangming, Deputy Director of CPPCC Foreign Affairs Committee and Zhang Ye, Director State Council Information Office also spoke about strengthening cooperation and shared responsibility as the forum picked pace. An interesting contribution was that of Red Cross China, whose representative elaborated on the on-going venture of Red-Cross China in Gwadar. Red-Cross China is effectively treating hundreds of patients using the latest technology and world-class medical expertise, and simultaneously training local doctors medical staff to run the hospital independently within two years. Due to a general lack of female medical doctors in the city, especially many women have benefited from the facilities provided.
Gwadar’s transformation as a major commercial hub has undoubtedly picked up pace with the inauguration of commercial operations and a successful Gwadar Expo 2018 jump-starting the new year. Apart from the Gwadar Port and Free Trade Zone, many exciting projects are currently underway. Real Estate has been one of the emerging sectors amidst these developments, and one such venture is the China Pak Golf Estates, taking Real Estate development in the port city to new heights. Such projects have aroused the interest as well as trust of foreign investors, and serve to improve the development of CPEC by creating a spirit of shared ownership.
And, as another key forum, ending with the signing of an agreement of Belt and Road News Communication and Cooperation, concludes we need to ask what kind of cooperation we seek at this point. The forum expounded the need to coordinate, and paved a path for deeper understanding and more meaningful coordination between media of both countries. And as the forum celebrates success, moving forward we can further boost the long term impact of such coordination efforts.
Firstly, Belt and Road News Cooperation Agreement highlights the need for positive news coverage. But we also need to promote thought provoking coverage and research which can contribute to the long term betterment of the economic and cultural cooperation currently underway. Media outlets and think tanks in both countries can identify areas of immediate interest in their research as well as coverage of current events. This can help promote existing developments, as well as guide the way forward for policy makers.
Secondly, tangible guidelines and deliverables can be communicated from both sides and promotion of academic collaborations specifically needs to be prioritized. If think tanks form joint research projects, and engage in academic exchange programs through the Cooperation Agreements, we will not only produce increasingly relevant research, but also develop a deeper understanding of each other. The people-to-people ties are now on the rise, and such guided discourse can promote synergy between the opinion makers of both countries.
Thirdly, as China and Pakistan promote the destiny of a shared future between both countries, a push towards multilateral coordination is more than timely. Guangming Daily is currently cooperating with delegations from 22 different countries in a similar capacity.
While Pakistan is also working in coordination with other countries over BRI, a joint multilateral collaboration between these countries on coverage of and cooperation over the BRI can allow even more coordinated efforts.
Currently CGSS has many research projects in Central Asia and boast deep cooperation with academicians and think tanks in the region. Similarly, Pakistani media should also actively engage in coordination with journalists and organizations from other countries along the BRI, especially those in the immediate region (Central Asia, South Asia, Afghanistan) and a push for a Belt and Road Initiative Media Coordination Group at this point can be more than timely.