Friday, June 21, 2019

Experts dwell on BRI opportunities and challenges

Experts from South Asia and South East Asia have highlighted the various opportunities and challenges associated with the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a two-day international conference that was concluded in Kathmandu today.
Delivering her presentation during the ‘Fourth International Conference on Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia’, Centre of International Relations and Strategic Studies under the Foreign Service Institute of Philippines Darlene V Estrada said that her country has remained very receptive towards China's BRI since it joined in 2017. “We are aligning our development plans with China's BRI even though there are some geopolitical, financial and legal risks," she said, adding that it is important for any country to maximise its national interests through BRI. “The Philippines has formulated a mechanism to avoid potential risks from the extreme debt under the BRI.”
Research Associate at the East Asian International Relations of Malaysia Nur Shahadah Jamil, on the occasion, said that the new Mahathir administration has continued engagement with China for economic cooperation though it scrapped some projects under the BRI which were agreed during the previous Najib administration. “We cannot abandon our strong economic partnership with China though we have scrapped some projects under the BRI after the new government came,” she said, adding that the Chinese investment is growing rapidly at present in Malaysia.
Likewise, macroeconomic expert of the Laos government Vanxay Sayavong shared that his country is taking huge advantage from the connectivity projects including China-Laos railway built under the framework of the BRI. Suggesting the participating countries to address the concerns of local communities while executing projects under the BRI, he said that the projects built under the BRI may face strong protests at the local level like in Laos in the recent past, if the concerns raised by local communities are not addressed.
Director at the Institute of South Asian Studies under the Xizang Minzu University of Tibet Autonomous Region of China said that China and Nepal have been expanding their economic cooperation in recent years. “We are determined to execute the cross-border railroad connectivity though it may take some time," she said, adding that India's hegemonic behaviour towards Nepal is thwarting China-Nepal relations at times. “Nepal needs to pursue an independent foreign policy and deepen its close ties with next-door neighbour China.”
The head of China Study Centre at Sustainable Development Policy Institute of Pakistan Hina Aslam, on the occasion, said that Pakistan has been benefitting from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by constructing energy plants, seaport, railroad connectivity projects and special economic zones. “However, hostile relationship with India over Kashmir issue and worsening security situation of Afghanistan may bring some problems in CPEC," she added.
Explaining how Bangladesh is bilaterally working with China as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor is not moving ahead as expected, Mahfuz Kabir from Bangladesh highlighted Bangladesh-China cooperation under the BRI. “As South Asian countries are heavily dependent on China for trade and investment, they need strong railroad connectivity with China,” he added.
A member of National Planning Commission (NPC) Krishna Prasad Oli said that the BRI is offering various economic opportunities for Nepal. “We want to enhance railroad connectivity with China," he added.
The conference, organised by Nepal-China Friendship Forum, witnessed the participation of scholars and experts from Nepal, China and other Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

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