ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Monday said Pakistan could take its economic growth to nine percent mark by ensuring successful accomplishment of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and enhancing regional connectivity through roads and sea.

Addressing the International Maritime Symposium held by Institute of Maritime Affairs, he said currently Pakistan’s economic growth stood at 6 percent but it could be increased remarkably by ensuring the proper utilization of access to the sea.

The event was attended by AJK President Sardar Masood Khan, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Rector Bahria University Vice Admiral Muhmmad Shafiq, National Security Adviser Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua and DG Institute of Maritime Affairs Rear Admiral Mukhtar Khan.

The prime minister said though the aviation sector looked to be more glamorous, 80 percent of global trade was still carried out by the sea.

He said holding of such events in today’s world was critical when Pakistan was developing CPEC and China had initiated Belt and Road Initiative. He said the maritime was critical to every country and Pakistan had proved tradition in Pakistan Navy and Merchant Navy and even today, many Pakistanis were playing their role in merchant navy.

The prime minister believed that providing access to sea was critical for better regional connectivity. He said the Indian Ocean Region was important hub of global energy flow and trade as large energy flew through this region. He said it was a great opportunity to exploit trade volume in the region.

Prime Minister Abbasi said the resolution of Afghan issue was vital to ensure the access of Central Asian States to Gwadar through Afghanistan.

He said the Central Asian States were interested to be part of the Gwadar to benefit the port. He said Pakistan had currently been developing 1,700 kilometers long motorways network and other 1,200 kilometers secondary roads particularly in Balochistan.

Such projects, he said would provide synergy to Gwadar Port. Pakistan needed to work with China to ensure execution of President Xi Jinping for connectivity and financial integration. The prime minister called for hard work as the country had the great opportunity to ensure not only its own growth but also the whole region.

About security concerns, he said Pakistan Navy is cognizant of them and is developing its capability to counter any challenge. He also expressed the confidence that capabilities of navy would also help mitigate security challenges of the maritime access for the whole region.

The prime minister said Gwadar and Iranian port of Chahbahar are not in competition but would complement each other.

In his welcome address, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said despite numerous challenges, Pakistan Navy has formulated a robust strategy to safeguard national maritime interests.

He said the Government is fully alive to Pakistan Navy’s needs and providing essential support in meeting the emerging security imperatives.

The Naval Chief said the prime minister has approved setting up of a modern shipyard at Gwadar which would contribute significantly to Pakistan’s economy.  He said they were also trying to establish another shipyard along Pakistani coast in the private sector.

He said the Government is taking all possible measures to develop maritime sector and in line with its policy the Ministry of Ports and Shipping has been renamed as Ministry of Maritime Affairs to broaden its scope.

Admiral Abbasi expressed the confidence that BRI and CPEC would help realize the goal of shared prosperity of the region.

Director Centre for Pakistan Studies of Peking University Prof Tang Mengsheng said CPEC would contribute a lot in socio-economic development of Pakistan and China. He said CPEC is not a dream but a reality and governments and people of the two countries are committed to implement it at an accelerated pace for mutual benefit. He said China wants to see Pakistan a strong and developed country.

President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan said Pakistan has assumed a unique position as it connects BRI to other parts of the globe through its flagship project of CPEC. He said CPEC give China direct land access to Indian Ocean region and it propels Pakistan into a position of centrality and pre-eminence.

Masood said BRI would give a fresh impetus to global growth, create new supply chains in Indian Ocean and pave the way for reducing poverty and income inequalities.

The AJK President proposed that Pakistan should prepare a comprehensive and long term policy on Indian Ocean. He said by opting for Gwadar Port and CPEC, Pakistan has chosen to become a regional economic hub and a maritime power. He said Pakistan needs to build larger naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.