MIRPUR (AJK) -  A seminar titled “Pakistan’s New Role between China and Europe; Opportunities and Challenges of China’s Silk Road Project” was organised by the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) in Vienna city.

It was hosted by Dr Werner Fasslabend, former defense minister and president of AIES, says a message reaching and released to the media here Wednesday evening

The event was co-hosted by Austria National Defence Academy and the Universal Peace Federation that were represented by Brigadier Walter Feichtinger and Mr Peter Haider respectively. It was attended by over 70 scholars, analysts, ambassadors, diplomats, UN representatives and members of civil society.

On the occasion, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan hoped that Pakistan would be among top economies of the world by 2050. Explaining the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the president said that it was an unprecedented transcontinental project spanning Asia, Europe and Africa aiming for global connectivity and economic prosperity. With massive potential, he said, that initiative covered 68 countries with plans to invest over US $ 1 trillion in infrastructure, energy, and industrial projects.

Underlining the importance of the European Union, President Masood said that EU’s market of 460 million people, as well as the EU’s treasure trove of technology and knowhow, makes it imperative that modern connectivity channels are established. He said that investments in Europe by China in energy, telecommunication, real estate sector and similarly Europe’s investment in industrial and services sectors in China have created mutual dependencies.

The president said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was the flagship project and an offshoot of the BRI. Pakistan’s role can or will play between Europe and China within the framework of the BRI and CPEC. He added that both the BRI and CPEC are a conscious effort to reach out to Europe which will bring Europe closer to Chinese markets.

The CPEC, said the president, was not just a stand-alone project. It is developed into a network for connecting East Asia, South Asia, Central, West, and Southwest Asia, he said. He added that now many states were showing interest in it and had already attracted the attention of Russia, Turkey, Italy, France and the UK and several other European countries were already consulting with Pakistan and China to participate in CPEC projects. The Gwadar Port, in particular, he said, would give Russia access to warm waters via Central Asia for international trade, helping begin a new phase of cooperation between Russia and Pakistan.

President Masood Khan said that concerted joint investments by Europe, Pakistan and China under the umbrella of CPEC would create huge opportunities for livelihoods, businesses and human development. In this context, he added, it would build bridges between Europe and China, Europe and Asia. He said that Pakistan would play a pivotal part in the process.

While responding to the questions, the president said that the CPEC would continue to be implemented despite the changes in the governments in Pakistan. There would be continuity in CPEC related projects, which would be completed without interruption. He said that Pakistan was now looking at the region geo-economically, not geo-strategically.

The audience took a keen interest in the possible resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The president said that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be resolved in accordance with the mechanisms established by the United Nations for the pacific settlement of disputes, which included dialogue, preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, negotiations and mediation. The president said the use of force or state terrorism would not resolve the issue. He expressed the confidence that one day the voice of the Kashmiris would be heard and their legitimate right for determining their political future would be recognised by the international community.

He said that Azad Kashmir promotes and protects human rights, whereas the human rights situation on the Indian Occupied Kashmir is horrendous, and he strongly urged the international community to intercede to put an end to human rights crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

He said Azad Jammu and Kashmir, had now been integrated into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and four projects under CPEC have been initiated.

These are two hydropower projects, one of them being directly funded by the Silk Road Fund, one expressway and an industrial zone. He added that Azad Kashmir was a peaceful territory, with the lowest crime rate and highest educational score in Pakistan. Azad Kashmir promotes and protects human rights, whereas the human rights situation on the Indian Occupied Kashmir is horrendous.