CPEC: Opportunities

Islamabad is reaping the benefits of its close strategic partnership with China. Beijing is also cognizant of the vitality of cordial relation’s sustainability for the pursuits of its interests’ in the transforming global politics. President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad in April 2015 and signed 51 Memorandums of Understanding and announced US$46b investment in Pakistan to build China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Many analysts dubbed CPEC as the centrepiece, the flagship, and pilot project of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Perhaps, CPEC would enhance the trade between China and Pakistan. Currently, the bilateral trade volume is around $12b per year. It is expected that it would reach $15b in near future.

Nothing would better promote Pakistan’s strategic future in South Asia and grand strategy toward India than its indigenous robust economic growth. The country’s economic growth is a Hercules task for the government without the foreign direct investment in both infrastructure build-up and relevant technology transfer. Ironically, despite Pakistan’s sincere cooperation in the global war on terrorism and Islamabad’s continuity of strategic dialogue with Washington; former fails to secure nuclear deal with US and attract foreign direct investment from the European countries. Conversely, Beijing has been generously assisting Islamabad to revolutionize its economic sector through infrastructure build-up and solidify its defensive fence and above all guard its national interest diplomatically at regional and global forums.

China generously offered to bear the 80 percent financial cost of two Karachi nuclear power plants of 2100 mega walt; building of Gawadar port; airport; etc. It is cooperating in building JF-17 Thunder, at Kamra and also agreed to sell eight conventional submarines to Pakistan Navy. In addition, at all the regional and international forums, Beijing has been endlessly supporting Islamabad. The consensus persists in Pakistan that ‘CPEC is a game changer’. It is because the gigantic generous $46b (recently the figure has increased to $51b after China committed to fund the Karachi-Lahore rail line) investment by China in the economic uplifting of Pakistan would create many opportunities for the people of Pakistan.

Importantly, CPEC is not only aiming at building massive road infrastructure but also intending to develop telecommunications and energy infrastructure. In addition to massive infrastructure build-up, China is also making Pakistan a key partner in its grand economic ambitions that relate to proposed 21st century Silk Route initiative. Indeed, pipelines buildup, power plants construction and other projects collectively contribute in stabilizing Pakistan’s economy and also end chronic energy crisis in Pakistan. Since decades, Pakistanis have been cognizant to need of a second port at Gwadar. Gwadar port not only holds enormous promise for Pakistan, but also neighbouring countries and regions such as Afghanistan, China, Central Asia and Eurasia. But due to financial constraints, Islamabad had failed to institutionalise its Gwadar port project.

The CPEC project provided Pakistan an opportunity to build as well as operationalize its Gwadar Port. The completion of Gwadar port definitely makes it the economic hub of Pakistan in particular but for the entire region in general. It would construct a strategic nexus between Pakistan, China and Central Asia, generating billions in revenue and providing shorter land routes. It would effectively establish links from the Caspian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, and would enable Gwadar to compete with Persian Gulf ports. This massive investment plan of China in Pakistan, certainly, makes the country a regional economic hub. The completion of CPEC would facilitate Chinese access to the Indian Ocean via Gwadar and also encourage Chinese both government and private sector to investment in the planned economic zones on the CPEC routes. According to the reports, China’s ship-borne trade currently amounting to $5 trillion and it may triple over a decade, much of which will be passing through Gwadar-Kashgar route.

The Chinese investment would also attract the foreign direct investment from other countries. Consequently, the Pakistan would prosper. The CPEC money would be used to construct power projects. The investment in power sector would assist in lessening power shortages that is hindering economic growth in Pakistan. CPEC will connect economic agents along a defined geography. It will provide connection between economic hubs on certain landscapes where large amount of economic resources and actors are concentrated. Perhaps, the mega economic activities further boost bilateral relations between China and Pakistan. The successful implementation of the CPEC would provide Pakistan access to Central Asian States — Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan — Russian Federation and Europe through China. The trucking and logistics industry of Pakistan would have immense opportunity to grow. Certainly, this unprecedented road link would have far-reaching positive geo-economic dividends for the people of Pakistan.

The CPEC infrastructure certainly boosts Pakistan’s tourism industry. In addition, the completion of the CPEC project would play a significant role in inter-provincial integration. It would also bring unprecedented economic rewards for the agriculture sector of Pakistan. The cooperation in the agriculture sector would help in transferring of technology pertaining to agro-chemicals, pesticides, seeds and fertilizers, which is imperative for increasing the yield of the crops in Pakistan. To conclude, successful implementation of CPEC will change the economic outlook and financial conditions of the people of Balochistan and KP. Thus, it is imperative that Islamabad intelligently monitors and thwarts challenges to CPEC, which offers many opportunities for country.

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