Muhammad Nawaz Khan : –
The deep-rooted friendship between Pakistan and China is evident by the two countries’ ambition in implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The development of CPEC would not only help in achieving China’s growth momentum but also accelerate Pakistan’s growth rate leading to peace, harmony and progress as a result of their generations old friendship. It is not one road project but a multi-sectoral framework covering energy, infrastructure, commercialization of Gwadar, industrial sector, etc. In this context, a need arises that in the interest of both the countries a proper comprehensive long-term plan for the Corridor should be evolved including utilization of spatial planning, identifying the needs for improvement in means of communication, while focusing on industrial and agricultural cooperation. The bases of this multi-million dollar project lies in the establishment of industrial parks, creating opportunities for improvement in employment and livelihood, identifying tourism prospects, efficient utilization and conservation of scarce resources like water, and identifying ways and means of financial cooperation for implementing all these projects.
As far as the scope of the CPEC is concerned it has been enlarged by including social sector development parallel to energy, infrastructure and transport to uplift the socially backward areas of Pakistan by alleviating poverty by job creation. The CPEC would stretch from Gwadar Port to Kashgar through road and rail link, in addition to regional connectivity by fibre optics, gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and joint projects relating to hydro and solar energy. Likewise, other South Asian countries including India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, etc, would also benefit by the Gwadar-Kashgar commercial Corridor. Pakistan’s geographical proximity to the energy-rich Gulf region and its recently-built Gwadar Port can itself get transformed into lucrative energy and trade corridor. In this chain of increased economic buzz, political-economic institutional stability may get flourished in Pakistan and the region by benefitting over three billion people in the region. This will be a win-win situation for all.
The project is of great strategic value to China having potential to enable Beijing in productively allocating its ever-growing trade surplus, and attaining the shortest possible access to the Middle East and Africa. This will also provide an opportunity to unlock the landlocked regions of China such as Xingjian by creating investment opportunities for both sides. China will also be able to save around one-third of the oil shipment costs that are incurred when oil is transported through the straits of Malacca. Likewise, China would be saving the containerised traffic costs, since half of the exports are focused on the western side.
For Pakistan, the benefits of the CPEC are many and far reaching. For starters, the building of this Corridor would add up a huge asset in Pakistan’s kitty in the form of infrastructure. Its benefits would already be imminent during the construction phase entailing employment generation. The Bloomberg Business rightly points out that not only would the Corridor provide China with an access to the Arabian Sea but also attract investment by regional connectivity. For Pakistan, the CPEC project is not only restricted to the establishment of infrastructure or enhancing the importance of transportation and financing, but also aims at undertaking commercial ventures in the energy sector by focusing on coal-fired plants and coal supplies, as well as, the hydroelectric and wind-generated power and solar plants. Generally, energy deficiency has been a major issue hindering economic growth of Pakistan; consequently this cooperation can assist in tackling such deficits. The timing of the CPEC is also ideal for Pakistan since the Operation Zarb-e-Azb – a joint military offensive by the Pakistan Armed Forces against militant groups – is hitting its final phase. Plans for economic development can prove to be a great source of rehabilitation for the terror-stricken areas of the country. As focus of the Corridor project is the Gwadar port, the provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtun Khwa will be the natural beneficiaries, which in turn can contribute to the overall prosperity of Pakistan considering that these two deprived provinces will be benefitting the most. Ensuring that no province is treated unjustly is a key to success in this regard.
Beauty of the CPEC lies in the fact that it offers equal opportunities to all the provinces and regions of the country to develop optimally by addressing economic disparities. Government of Pakistan honours all the commitments on the CPEC it made with the top political leadership of the country in All Parties Conference in May 2015. Federal government does not discriminate any province or region in terms of development process through this mega development project. Misconceptions about the CPEC got spread by lack of information. National political leadership was taken on board in order to clear the mist viz-a-viz the CPEC project. The national political leadership also extended its cooperation to the CPEC when they supported it wholeheartedly. In this very context, the western route would be completed on priority and proposals for industrial zones and parks are being developed in consultation with the provinces. Therefore, the 650 KM missing link on western route would be completed by December 2016, while tangible transformation has started getting itself manifested in areas along the already constructed western route.
To conclude, the CPEC is of vital national and regional interest and can alone become a game changer for Pakistan and the region. Pakistan can play a key role in promoting inter-regional and intra-regional trade both within SCO and between the SCO member states and South Asia, the Gulf and the world by providing them the sea
access. Pakistan and China have a shared destiny; together they can make the dream of Asian century come true.
The writer works for IPRI