LAHORE: Politically stable and secure Pakistan is vital for uninterrupted investment flow and smooth economic activities, says Chinese diplomat Peng Zhengwu at a discussion held at Punjab University’s Pakistan Study Centre here on Tuesday.

“A stable political system matters a lot. It ensures free flow of movement and hassle-free business opportunities,” said the deputy consul general, calling for more welcoming atmosphere for Chinese investors to help reboot the local economy.

He said foreigners coming to Pakistan should also be allowed movement, choice of their foods, availability of cost-effective residence and reasonable commutations to make environment conducive for investors and the general public.

The CPEC, a signature project of the Belt and Road Initiative, was a path to realise the dream of seamless industrial growth, joint ventures, socio-economic progress, agriculture development, cultural connectivity, peace and prosperity in the region, he said.

Foreign affairs expert Muhammad Mehdi who chaired the sitting said though sky is the limit for improvement, there still are things needing attention to take Pakistan-China relations and the CPEC to new heights in the face of a barrage of challenges. He lauded the statement of Lijian Zhao, deputy director-general of information department at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for hailing the Lahore High Court verdict allowing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for treatment.

He suggested that as part of Panda Diplomacy observed by China globally, Beijing should donate Pandas to the Lahore Zoo to win hearts of people.

Sichuan University (China) Director Song Zhihui said that politically both Pakistan and China were fine but economically still there was lot of room to do more. He highlighted China’s booming demand for Pakistani mangoes, rice and other fruits asking the local exporters to fully capitalise on the opportunity.

He said Chinese entrepreneurs were looking for potential partners in Pakistan to start joint ventures in building material and cost-effective house construction.

Punjab University Pro-VC Azhar Saleem called for more people-friendly Chinese visa policy by granting visas with multiple entries and longer periods as practiced globally.

Dean Faculty of Arts Dr Iqbal Chawla talked of strength of mutual relations irrespective of the change in international and regional dynamics, while Prof Amjad Magsi said that successive Pakistani governments considered ties with China as the cornerstone of their foreign policies.

Former Supreme Court Judge Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar highlighted the importance of formation of the CPEC Authority and underlined the need for technical training for local manpower by Chinese experts in the field of agriculture.

Senior journalist Altaf Hassan Qureshi emphasised on extensive people to people contact, literary and cultural cooperation.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019