President Pervez Musharraf's recent visit to China
and South Korea is being rightly termed as of historic significance.
Apart from the economic gains of enhanced trade and investment, this
visit, specially to South Korea, will certainly serve as an indication
of "look towards east approach" in our foreign policy.
Although the Ministers for Finance, Mr. Shaukat Aziz
and of Privatisation Dr. Hafeez Sheikh, two important members of
President encourage, in a joint press conference, on return to
Islamabad, focused primarily on the economic aspect, the visit, as is
being talked about here in informed circles, has more to it than merely
economic dimension. Viewed in the context of geostrategic situation in
the sub-continent, the visit to both countries was important to
articulate our state position with regard to new challenges. The changed
diplomatic stature after the 9/11 incident has primarily given voice to
the country at the international level. This new engagement needs closer
interaction with our friends so as to clarify our position and ally
fears that might be speared by vested interest in this regard. Rising as
a bridge between the Islamic world and the West, a goal which Pakistan
cherished ever since the country came into being, would need proactive
diplomacy and an articulate leader. At the same time neighbours will
have to be taken on board so that the regional stability is not
compromised in international diplomatic adventurism.
In their joint press conference, the two Ministers
said that a significant number of trade and economic Memorandum of
Understandings were signed between the government and the private
sectors during the visit. Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said that the
"Punch line" of the trip to the two highly important countries
of South East Asia was that Asia is the future in terms of economic
growth and opportunity. Asia has tremendous potential for economic
development. He said the focus of the Boao Forum in China was that there
is a dire need for closer economic cooperation among the Asian
countries, specifically the organisation like ASEAN and others must
coordinate in the economic spheres.
The Finance Minister, referring to Pak-China trade
cooperation said that wide-ranging discussions were held between the
delegations of the two countries and a number of accords were signed. He
said that China has given Pakistan concessions on 893 items, and has got
concessions on 200 items. The Export and Import Bank of China (Exim
Bank) has agreed to set up a credit line of $500 million in Pakistan
under "preferential financing". The chairman of Exim Bank of
China would be visiting Pakistan soon, the Minister said the agreement
in this regard would be signed in January. He also said China
Development Bank has expressed its interest in investing in Pakistan.
China would also conduct hydrological survey of Thar coal project in
Pakistan and make feasibility study of a power station and would be
sending its experts to Pakistan. "Similarly another Chinese
company, ZTE, is already in Pakistan", the minister said adding
that President Musharraf has offered EPZs (exclusive economic zones) for
the Chinese exporting companies. China being an immediate neighbour of
Pakistan and being and exporter of capital goods was very important for
Citing the President's visit to South Korea, Shaukat
Aziz said that Korean Exim Bank has also expressed its interest in doing
business in Pakistan. This bank has stopped credit for Pakistan earlier.
"Next year, the head of Korean Exim Bank would visiting
Pakistan," the minister said. He said that rescheduling was also
agreed with South Korea in addition to the signing of the accord with
the South Korean Petroleum Corporation for oil and gas exploration in
Pakistan. The South Korean ventures were also offered the EPZ in
Pakistan. The SME Korea that has 2.8 million companies would also
cooperate with Pakistan in various spheres. It was agreed that both the
government and the private sector of the two countries would endeavour
for boosting trade and economic cooperation.
Speaking on the occasion, Privatisation Minister Dr.
Hafiz Sheikh said that the trip to China and South Korea was to seek
heavy investments in Pakistan. He said the President prudently
highlighted the potential of economic opportunities in Pakistan at the
Beijing Forum. Pakistan's approach is to focus on China, which is a
remarkably growing economy as well as our immediate neighbour, he said
adding that during the Shanghai Forum in which over seven hundred
companies have participated that included China Council, China Chambers
of Commerce etc., 12 MoUs 2 LoIs and 6 joint ventures were agreed
between the private sectors of Pakistan and China, which were to the
tune of $220 million. Seven agreement were linked for vehicle
production, 5 for motorcycles etc. The minister said that President
Musharraf has directed for setting up of China Cell within the Board of
Investment in Pakistan.
As the divide between East and West on economic
issues gets deeper, the demands for economic cooperation among the ASEAN
countries get credence. This was the prime focus of Boao conference,
which the President attend as a key speaker. Viewed in the context of
Boao conference, the President's visit can be term as a success as it
helped Pakistan sign a number of trade and economic MoUs, besides
assurances of $500 million investment by Exim Bank of China.