Pakistan was first among the countries that recognised this new country, China. On one hand is a democratic state (Pakistan) and on the other, a communist state (China) – a match seldom heard of. However, Pakistan and China have been successful during all these years to take this friendship and bond a notch up a little with each passing year. Not only this, Pakistan was the first country to open the air corridor with the outside world for China and also the first among the Muslim world to establish two-way positively diplomatic relations with China.
To this day, friendship with China continues to be a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan has always admired the fact that in a world full of chaos, the evergreen friendship between the two countries is a symbol of balance and stability in the South-East Asian Region. No other bilateral relationship in the world has had such huge reservoirs of goodwill on consistent and sustainable bases than the one between China and Pakistan. Hence, it becomes important here to say that trusting China has never failed Pakistan.
The most recent and promising factor and binding force between the two countries for several years from now is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is basically a flagship project of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative of the Chinese President, Xi. The world has its eyes on the implementation of the projects that fall under CPEC which is primarily the result of strategic framework for broadening avenues of cooperation with Pakistan in different fields. Under the historical milestone named CPEC, as much as 51 agreements or Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) were signed. These were related to the infrastructure, communication, and most importantly, the energy sector of Pakistan.
For smooth implementation of the project, security of the Chinese engineers, professionals and workers working on the CPEC projects in Pakistan is a serious matter, but the government seems to be just as concerned. The issue has been discussed at the highest level. The government of Pakistan had already decided to raise a special force of 15,000 personnel and put to action a multi-layered security system for protection and security of the Chinese engineers and workers. For instance, recently, the security to protect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor route in Gilgit-Baltistan has been boosted. This has been confirmed by Faizullah Faraq, the Spokesman for Gilgit-Baltistan government, that 300 personnel have been deployed to ensure full security to CPEC route from Diamer to Hunza.
The importance of this project can be well derived from the fact that the popularity of the project has reached a global level. The most common praise about the project has been that it would prove to be a game-changer for Pakistan – making it an “Asian Tiger” in the coming years. It is important to quote here that the project aims to connect Gwadar Port in South-Western Pakistan to China’s North-Western region through a large network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas. This would not only prove to be a stabilizing factor of the two countries for decades to come, but also ensure possible solutions to existing problems of the areas in use – specifically Gwadar. It would be useful here to note that we are all aware of the fact that Gwadar has long been facing a water crisis, and in the face of this project, it would not at all go ignored. The corridor would stretch about 3000 km from Gwadar to Kashgar.
The plan to link Kashgar in western region of China with Gwadar Port in Balochistan through rail, road network and oil and gas pipeline, will attract investments and boost trade flows. Apart from all the positive aspects of the mega project, there is some criticism revolving around the Gwadar-Kashgar corridor especially. As an emerging power, a result of the project on part of China would be that the Gawadar Port would let China gain access to the Indian Ocean. Not only that, it is in close proximity to the Persian Gulf as well which means brighter future aspects are in store.
Now for the power projects alone, a total of $35 billion will be invested. The distribution of this amount at a regional level is so perfectly managed that it can be tagged as the need of the hour. Around $10 billion is allocated to Sindh, $7 billion for Punjab, $8.5 billion for Balochistan, $2.5 billion for Azad Kashmir, and $1.8 billion for KP. The point to acknowledge here is that Balochistan gets much needed attention finally. There has been some criticism brimming over the view that Balochistan has many other problems to solve first, but it seems an undeniable fact that once the projects are shaped into reality, they can provide the province with ample opportunities to sustain on development. Infrastructure nowadays is seen as the building block for developing nations and it must be understood that once it has been set right, the rest of the improvements then follow path. Rest assured, China has a bigger plan than CPEC alone and by hook or by crook, the country ensures timely completion of the projects in association with Pakistan.
Other important projects under CPEC include the second phase of upgrading of Karakoram Highway, Motorway project between Karachi and Lahore, Thakot-Havelian motorway, Gwadar Port Expressway, Gwadar International Airport and Karachi-Sukkur motorway in addition to a string of energy projects. Over $33 billion out of $46 billion will be invested in the energy sector of Pakistan. Under the CPEC, the hydel, coal, wind and solar energy projects will add a total of 10,400 MW to the national grid. Energy security so achieved will feed directly into the national and economic security of Pakistan thereby allowing the country to unlock its true economic potential. The CPEC also entails setting up of economic zones, with a focus on energy production, which will address Pakistan’s future energy requirements.
Infrastructural developments have never failed a developing economy in the long run whether it is done with the help of a friendly neighbour or on a country’s own. This is the beauty of developing countries that they rely on their friends and it has never gone in vain. Plus, Pakistan is not a developed country to embark upon such remarkable mega projects in all the provinces burdening the people. Hence, it is futile to say that there would be a lot of negative impacts of the construction of motorways on broader local economies along the routes because overall, both for China and Pakistan, CPEC create a win-win situation.
The economic corridor will take bilateral relations between Pakistan and China to new heights. Overall construction costs are estimated at $46 billion and the entire project will be completed by 2017/18. Out of $46 billion, $34 billion is pure investment by Chinese companies. Pakistan, suffering as it is from acute energy shortages and limited trade with its immediate neighbours, will be effectively networked.
The project would facilitate movement of goods and services in the region. China being the only party involved, the region’s economy would serve to urge stakeholders in maintaining peace and stability in the South and Central Asian regions. If all the countries concerned or not concerned would keep power politics out of the way of the project, CPEC has all the required potential to shift the economic scenario of the whole region. The project would also serve as a gateway for trade between China, Middle East and Africa. Central Asia is geographically and economically a closed region. With CPEC on board, it will have greater access to sea and to the global trade network.
In this way, CPEC has the potential to bring prosperity to the entire region. The expected benefits from the CPEC are going to take Pakistan to a new era of economic growth. These investments from the Chinese side in diverse projects would prove to bring about a socio-economic paradigm shift in the existing situation of social and economic infrastructure of the country. CPEC has already been able to gather only so much attention that after the completion of the projects, Pakistan would be able to gain stronger grounds in its international standing in the world. Not to forget, CPEC is the biggest overseas investment announced by China to date in any single country. It is a strategic game-changer in the region, and would go a long way in making Pakistan a better integrated and economically, socially and politically stronger too if we integrate to make it a reality that it would be.