Naseem Khan Achakzai
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), proposed by China in 2013, has emerged as one of the most ambitious and transformative development projects in modern history. Spanning across Asia, Europe, Africa, and beyond, this colossal infrastructure and economic development initiative has had a profound impact on various countries, including Pakistan.
As a young professional working closely with the policymakers in an advisory role in Pakistan and especially in Balochistan, my journey within this dynamic landscape has been marked by tremendous opportunities and challenges leading to significant professional growth and insights.
Enhanced research opportunities: The BRI has stimulated an array of research topics and demands for analysis, which has provided think tanks in Pakistan with ample opportunities to delve into diverse areas such as international relations, economics, infrastructure development, and geopolitics. I have had the privilege of engaging in extensive research related to BRI projects, their implications for Pakistan, and the broader regional and global context. This exposure to complex issues has sharpened my research skills and expanded my knowledge base, allowing me to become a subject matter expert in the field.
A very strategic plan that I helped design and execute was establishing a strategic partnership between the province of Xinjiang and Balochistan in agriculture exchange and research. Balochistan and Xinjiang have a vital position of importance in the CPEC. We established the connection between the Ministry of Agriculture Balochistan and Xinjiang which was successfully executed by the delegation-level visit of Minister Agriculture of Balochistan, Zmark Khan Achakzai and his team to Xinjiang to establish cooperation in the field of agriculture.
Networking and Collaboration: The BRI has brought together an extensive network of stakeholders, including the government officials, diplomats, academics, and business leaders from both China and Pakistan. Participating in the BRI-related events, conferences, and seminars has allowed me to establish valuable connections and collaborations with experts from various backgrounds. These interactions have opened doors to collaborative research projects, knowledge exchange and policy dialogues. August 2019 and the Gwadar business Center when the Gwadar Master plan was to be approved, I was in Gwadar with the then Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan and witnessed the process as we were hosting the first high level Pakistan China Youth conclave in Gwadar with over 50 young leaders from China and the Chief Minister along with the Cabinet signed the new Gwadar Master Plan in presence of other stakeholders.
Policy engagement: The BRI has been at the forefront of Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda, offering numerous opportunities to engage with policymakers and provide evidence-based recommendations. Through participation in the roundtable discussions and policy briefings, I have been able to contribute to informed policy decisions, helping shape Pakistan’s stance on BRI-related matters and fostering a deeper understanding of its implications. At the policy level interventions i along with colleagues in China have successfully launched the first ever Chinese origin Think Tank in Pakistan. The Grandview institution headquartered in Beijing is the first Chinese origin Think Tank which has expanded its presence in Pakistan and shall work closely with policy makers in Pakistan to take the coordination to new heights.
Economic insights, cultural exchange & p-to-p connectivity: The BRI has had a profound impact on Pakistan’s economy and trade dynamics. The development of infrastructure projects under the initiative has boosted trade connectivity and economic growth in the region. Beyond infrastructure and economic development, the BRI emphasizes cultural exchange and people-to-people connectivity. As a think tank professional, I have had the opportunity to engage in various cultural exchange programs and academic collaborations facilitated by the BRI.
These experiences have broadened my horizons, deepened my understanding of different cultures, and enriched my perspective on global affairs. Such exposure has been instrumental in fostering a more holistic and nuanced approach to my work.
Geopolitical insights, language: The BRI is not without its geopolitical complexities, and its impact on regional dynamics cannot be understated. Being situated at the crossroads of South Asia, China, and the Middle East, Pakistan occupies a critical geopolitical position in the BRI. I have gained valuable insights into the intricate web of geopolitics in the region, enabling me to analyze power dynamics, security challenges, and the evolving alliances in this strategic landscape. This geopolitical acumen has elevated the quality of my analysis and policy recommendations.
Beside, effective communication with Chinese stakeholders is essential for meaningful collaboration within the BRI framework.
Navigating the evolving landscape of the BRI has required adaptability and resilience. The shifting priorities, project timelines, and geopolitical dynamics have demanded quick thinking and the ability to pivot in response to new challenges. These experiences have honed my problem-solving skills and strengthened my capacity to work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment.
The Belt and Road Initiative has undoubtedly been a transformative force in Pakistan and the broader region. My journey within this dynamic landscape has been characterized by continuous learning, networking, and adapting to new challenges. The BRI has enriched my career by providing opportunities for research, policy engagement, economic insights, cultural exchange, and geopolitical analysis. It has also reinforced the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of evolving circumstances. While the BRI presents its share of complexities and controversies, its role in shaping the professional growth of think tank professionals in Pakistan cannot be overstated.
The writer has served as Adviser to Speaker of Balochistan Assembly and is Focal Person to Chief Minister Balochistan on Youth Development and SDGs