The Pakistan Air Force and the Royal Aeronautical Society and Institute of Space Technology jointly organized a one-day symposium on “CPEC vis-à-vis Opportunities for Aviation Industry and Way Forward” at Air Headquarters in capital Islamabad.
The activity attracted a high level of participation from all major stake holder organizations including government ministries, think tanks, academia, military and commercial aviation operators and regulators, report local media.
While addressing the symposium, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, said the CPEC is a project of great magnitude which will play a pivotal role in transforming the economic landscape of Pakistan, as indeed the region and beyond. It is rightly called a game changer as it connects East and West Asia, making Pakistan both a conduit and destination for cross regional investment and trade. The Air Chief further said that PAF is fully committed to provide impregnable security to this project of great strategic significance in synergy with sister services and other enforcement agencies.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, lauded efforts of the Air Chief and termed the symposium as timely and a prudent, inevitable exercise. He further appreciated the foresightedness of PAF, and endorsed its role as the leader in the aviation sector in Pakistan, report Daily Times.
Senator Sayed recalled the foresightedness of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948 when Pakistan was in a precarious condition: it was at war with India over Kashmir; was faced with bankruptcy as India was refusing to give Pakistan its share of assets; there was an influx of millions of refugees to Pakistan, and a similar exodus of population following communal riots. When the Quaid was asked by American journalist Margaret Bourke-White about the future of Pakistan and its place in the world, he responded with characteristic clarity and conviction. He told the journalist, “Pakistan is the pivot of the world,placed on the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves”. His words sound prophetic today.
With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the center piece of regional connectivity, an emerging Greater South Asia, China, South and Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan are being woven together by pipelines and ports, roads and railways, energy and economy, and Pakistan’s role is pivotal.
The senator highly praised the role of Pakistan Air Force in eradicating the menace of terrorism and showed his confidence that PAF will ensure the aerial security of CPEC through rigorously tested capability of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. He termed aviation sector as the strategic dimension of CPEC.
Air Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, the deputy chief of the Air Staff (Support) and Chairman of Royal Aeronautical Society Islamabad Branch, said that the unexplored aerial dimension of CPEC will be the real game changer for Pakistan. This dimension will exponentially expand the reach of CPEC and would be a key element in making Pakistan the next business hub of Asia.
Muzaffar Alam, Additional Director Air Transport International Regulations at Civil Aviation Authority, forecasted that aviation traffic will increase by three million passengers in next three to four years, which creates a major potential for new Airlines operators, ground handling agencies, aviation training Institutions and other relevant agencies.
Air Vice Marshal Razi Nawab, Deputy Managing Director Shaheen Foundation, gave a visionary concept of Air Silk Route and presented a plan to meet the future aviation requirements. He emphasized that aviation industry urgently needs the establishment of New Aviation Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) setups, trained manpower, new airlines, joint ventures and rightly placed infrastructure to handle the need of future economic hub of South Asia.
Amer Zafar Durrani, CEO of Secur Global, Reenergia Enhar, briefed the audience that with the positive movement of the center of gravity for economic activities, Pakistan is the next economic hub of Asia. CPEC has its own benefits, but with the integration of aviation, the advantage can grow exponential. He termed the aviation as the prerequisite for business and economic development. He strongly advocated the Mergers and Acquisitions, Investments in Infrastructure and Services and Civil aircraft manufacturing collaborations to promote Higher Global Connectivity, Tourism and rapid growth of aviation industry in Pakistan. He also recommended the shared flag carrier for unrestricted access across the globe.
Air Commodore Abdul Moeed, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Plan) while highlighting the role of Air Power in CPEC briefed that Pakistan Air Force hold a realtime tested and tried capability of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), which has magnificent potential and application in CPEC security. He also briefed that Pakistan Air Force has full capability to effectively undertake specialised roles of medical evacuation, search and rescue operations, area scanning, kinetic operations on CPEC.
Federal Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal, during his key note speech, highly appreciated the commitment and vision of Pakistan Air Force for leading the exploration of unexplored dimension in CPEC. He emphasized the importance of aviation in One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and advocated its integration in CPEC to make Pakistan a geo-economic hub of the region. Subsequently, he urged for expeditious development of aviation technology in Pakistan by establishment of Technology Intensive Clusters at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra; Promotion of academic activities related to aviation including research and development, supporting of public private partnerships and joint venture with local and international aviation organisations.
Dr Nasir Afghan, Director of MBA Program at IBA Karachi and consultant IAEA, highlighted that aviation has been the missing link in CPEC and should be incorporated in major plan. He briefed that air transportation is directly proportional to the prosperity of any country as it will stimulate additional traffic volumes, facilitate tourism, trade, investment and other sectors of the economy, subsequently enhancing productivity, economic growth and employment. He also proposed a simpler model of CPEC authority at National and Provincial level to ensure synergy and positive coordination among all stake holders. He strongly advocated that Aviation and CPEC will connect Pakistan to the global world and will open endless opportunities for economic growth. While concluding, he recommended that Pakistan should have a long term strategy for OBOR and CPEC.
THE WAY FORWARD
The platform discussed different aspects of Aviation industry and its integration with CPEC. On the basis of discussion and recommendations by the speakers and audience, following way forward were proposed at the end of the symposium:
1. Joint Working Group for Aviation headed by Pakistan Air Force is to be formed with a member from Aviation Division, Ministry of Planning Development and Reform, Civil Aviation Authority and Rep from Major Airlines and Aviation Academic Institutions. The major mandate of the group will be refined integration of Aviation dimension in CPEC.
2. Smart application of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability of Pakistan Air Force to ensure the fool proof security of CPEC and further augmentation of security already provided by land forces throughout the route and Naval forces for Sea Lines of Communication.
3. SEZs are to be developed with focus of heavy industry to facilitate trade and economic growth.
4. Comprehensive Security Plan is to be made while catering all three dimensions.
5. Autonomous CPEC authority is to be made at Federal and Provincial level to ensure synergy and smooth coordination.
6. Higher Education Commission should promote the Conventional and Vocational Aviation Training to cater the futuristic needs. Facilitation and assistance to be provided to Aviation Training Institutes.
7. CPEC Resource Center be made to study, explore and evaluate the Short, Medium and Long Term Aviation Development opportunities at Regional Level.