The Pakistan Navy holds a ceremony to mark the establishment of its Task Force 88 for CPEC Maritime Security in southwest Pakistan's Gwadar Port on December 13, 2016 (COURTESY OF PAKISTAN NAVY)
The two-day International Maritime Conference on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar Port was organized under the auspices of the Pakistan Navy in coordination with the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform and the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC at Gwadar last December.
The conference, under the theme "CPEC & Gwadar Port as Harbinger of Regional Integration and Maritime Economic Development," aimed at examining the politically strategic, maritime economic and security dimensions of the CPEC project and the challenges and opportunities arising in the economic domain from its implementation. The sessions were attended by senior officials, diplomats and experts from China, Pakistan and Iran.
Zhao Baige, Vice Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress of China, said in her address that CPEC is the link between the region and rest of the world, and Gwadar Port is the materialization of the dream of the Belt and Road Initiative. She added that the role of the Pakistan Navy in the stability and security of the project is inextricably linked with the huge dividends of prosperity it will bring to the region.
During the inaugural address, Chief of Pakistan Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah highlighted the significance of CPEC for the economic progress of Pakistan. Maritime security in the region is of prime importance, and the Pakistan Navy has been playing an active role in ensuring a secure and stable maritime environment. CPEC, with the potential to set off economic connectivity and growth on a broader geographic canvas, will reinforce this need.
Sanaullah Zehri, Chief Minister of Balochistan, said that CPEC is one of the most important initiatives of China and Pakistan in history. He said that the geographical position of Pakistan and the natural deep sea port of Gwadar are great blessings of nature. The chief minister assured foreign investors of the conducive and secure environment for businesses to reap benefits from CPEC-related projects.
Professor Xu Ming, Executive Director of the Glorious Sun Institute of Management at Donghua University, said CPEC is a great strategic design which will greatly benefit both China and Pakistan.
Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussein Sayed emphasized that Gwadar is the hub and center piece of CPEC and the way forward for Pakistan in the 21st century. He concluded his address saying that the Pakistan Navy's role in maritime security and CPEC is pivotal and there is a need for policy making on the maritime economy.
Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Pakistan's Chief Minister of Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri (center), and Chief of Pakistan Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah (left) attend the inaugural session of the International Maritime Conference 2016 CPEC & Gwadar Port on December 13, 2016 (COURTESY OF PAKISTAN NAVY)
Aiming to ensure the security of Gwadar Port and CPEC in the maritime domain, the Pakistan Navy established a new unit, known as Task Force-88, at Gwadar at the end of 2016.
Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah said the Task Force 88 establishment ceremony marks the resolve of the Pakistan Navy to provide a safe and secure maritime environment for CPEC, trade and Gwadar Port.
According to Deputy Chief of Pakistan Naval Staff Operations Vice Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbassi, the task force will comprise warships, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles supported by shore-based sensors.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong and the Chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, also attended the ceremony.
Copyedited by Chris Surtees
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