Second Belt and Road Forum (BRF): What does it mean for Pakistan?

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On April 25-27, 2019, China organized the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing to review the status of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Leadership of 37 countries and delegates from 150 countries participated.

Global acceptance amid regional constraints

BRI continues to widen international scope. Its global impact can be seen from the attendance sheet. Around 40 leaders from the world participated in the second forum. Pointedly, representatives came from all regions through which the BRI traverses; these include Europe, Africa, South East Asia, East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. Even the US sent an official, so did the United Nations (UN) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

At the same time, the BRI is also taking the global issues with earnest. For one, participants at the second forum discussed intellectual property and green environment. Developing countries are often charged for violating these two issues as they build their economies. BRI traverses through such countries. That these issues came in discussion at the BRF reflect that the BRI wants to get integrated with global issues. At the forum, China launched the BRI International Green Development Coalition and established working mechanism for the Belt and Road Earthquake Risk Reduction Cooperation.[i]

And yet, not all countries within any one region are always in attendance. From the entire Middle East, only United Arab Emirates (UAE) turned in. India’s absence was conspicuous from South Asia.

As much as the BRI tries to connect the regions, it cannot escape the internal dynamics within those regions. India’s objects at the inclusion of word “Pakistan” in the corridor that India says goes through disputed territory. Even China’s own neighbhourhood, in the East Asia, saw participation of only one landlocked country, Mongolia. The US, which had sent a senior official to the first forum, did not send this time. These realities post challenge for the exalted goals stated by the BRI.

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