• Ten years have passed since the inception of the BRI. This decade is more than a mere marker; it is a milestone on the BRI’s journey and, simultaneously, a new beginning. It signifies not just the progress and achievements of the past but also the promise of the future.
  • By Syed Ali Nawaz Gilani

A decade has gracefully elapsed since the inception of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This timeframe, though it might seem a mere notch on the calendar, holds a significance that extends far beyond a simple marker. It represents not just the progress and achievements of the past but, concurrently, a promise of an even more promising future.

This is a journey that, by its very essence, refuses to bow to the constraints of time. It’s a story still unfolding, a testament to the unyielding spirit of progress and cooperation that characterizes our era.

In the grand tapestry of global cooperation and economic development, the BRI stands as a beacon of progress and potential. As the BRI commemorates its 10-year milestone, it’s not just a moment for retrospection; it’s the inception of a new era. The odyssey of the BRI has been nothing short of remarkable, reshaping the landscape of international collaboration, propelling economies towards growth, and threading infrastructural connections across the globe.

Initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI is an audacious undertaking designed to weave an intricate web of trade routes, linking the regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa. It comprises the “Belt,” symbolizing a land-based network of infrastructure, and the “Road,” representing sea-based routes connecting countries worldwide. Its overarching mission is to stimulate economic development and foster cooperation among participating nations.

One of the most striking aspects of the BRI is its transcendent ability to soar above political and geographical divisions. With the involvement of over 150 countries and 30 international organizations as signatories, it has United Nations with diverse backgrounds and ambitions. This global consortium under the BRI stands as a testament to the vision of a shared destiny and mutual prosperity.

The BRI has shifted from being a mere aspiration to a tangible force for change, giving rise to over 3,000 cooperative projects that span diverse sectors, from transportation to energy, trade, and technology. These endeavors have given birth to bustling ports, high-speed rail networks, and flourishing economic zones, among numerous other initiatives. The BRI has transformed into a catalyst for infrastructural development and economic progress.

Supporting the BRI is a massive investment, approaching the trillion-dollar mark. This substantial financial commitment, underwritten by China and other participating nations, is the lifeblood of BRI’s development, ensuring the successful implementation of its projects on a global scale.

Nevertheless, as we focus on the physical impact of the BRI, we should not overlook the social and economic underpinnings, often eclipsed by the limelight. For instance, within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship BRI project, an essential emphasis has been placed on human development, even in the face of the clamor created by disinformation.

In 2019, China extended a generous $1 billion to Pakistan for 27 projects concentrated in the domains of education, agriculture, and poverty alleviation. The majority of these initiatives are centered in the less-developed regions of Southern Punjab and Balochistan. Notably, the Gwadar Technical and Vocational Institute was established in Gwadar, offering skill-based training in port handling and other essential areas, benefitting almost 2,000 individuals annually.

According to a World Bank assessment, CPEC alone holds the potential to uplift 1.1 million low-income Pakistanis out of poverty, unveiling the socio-economic impact of BRI’s undertakings. Moreover, the economic harvest of these projects is far from insignificant. As disclosed by Yang Yundong, China’s Consul General for Pakistan, the 36 projects initiated under CPEC, some of which have reached fruition while others are steadily progressing, have generated a total income of $17.55 billion, in addition to $2.12 billion in tax contributions to Pakistan.

Realizing the full potential of these developmental projects and investments can be furthered if Pakistan effectively confronts the challenges posed by disinformation and propaganda propagated by CPEC detractors. Achieving this objective is entirely feasible if all stakeholders rally under a common banner, underscoring the importance of mutual trust while safeguarding economic policies and decision-making from the discord sown by political differences.

Furthermore, the legacy of the BRI stretches beyond bricks and mortar and economic growth. It extends into the domain of cooperation, encapsulating the spirit encapsulated by Xi Jinping’s words: “A just cause finds great support, and a journey with many companions gets far.” The BRI transcends borders, not just connecting countries physically but also fostering mutual understanding and shared prosperity.

As we reach this momentous 10-year mark, let us not become ensnared by the past. Instead, let us keep our eyes fixed on the limitless horizon. The journey of the BRI is not a finished tale but a story still in the making, a testament to the unrelenting spirit of progress and cooperation that characterizes our era.

This decade signifies far more than a mere commemoration of past accomplishments; it serves as an unwavering embrace of the future. It symbolizes a promise of uncharted potential that beckons from the horizon, a vision that transcends the confines of history.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) isn’t a relic of bygone times, an inert monument of past endeavors. Instead, it stands as a living, breathing entity, pulsating with vitality. It doesn’t dwell in the shadow of its own history; rather, it propels itself forward, tirelessly crafting new narratives, exploring new frontiers, and sowing the seeds of fresh possibilities.

The BRI’s journey isn’t one of reminiscence and nostalgia; it’s a forward trajectory, an ongoing narrative that continually unfolds, evolves, and reshapes itself in response to the changing tides of our world. It embodies the dynamic spirit of progress, ever-adapting and ever-advancing.

Within this living entity, the seeds of innovation and cooperation germinate, fostering the promise of a future where nations collaborate, economies flourish, and prosperity is shared. The BRI is not bound by the constraints of history; it is unburdened by the weight of the past. Instead, it forges ahead, an ever-expanding tapestry of hope and opportunity, charting a course toward a brighter and more interconnected world. Stepping into the BRI’s second decade, we are reminded that this initiative is not static; it’s a dynamic force, an enduring testament to what can be achieved when nations unite with a common purpose, creating a legacy that resonates for generations to come.

  • (The writer is Secretary General of Pakistan China Friendship Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter, and a Peshawar based Senior Media Consultant) syeed.gilani@gmail.com)

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