Russia can be a welcoming presence at CPEC

Li Xing

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as a flagship project of the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative, has drawn a great deal of investments. Apart from the fact that Pakistan has approved a Russian request for using the Gwadar Port, located in Balochistan Province, for its exports, media reports were swirling that Russia planned to merge the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with the CPEC.

Although the Russian embassy in Islamabad later denied the reports, concerns and speculations have been lingering among some observers. It isn’t something terrible if Moscow joins the CPEC. Instead, it will be an opportunity for China, Russia and Pakistan to enhance cooperation.

First, China’s OBOR is essentially appealing to principles of joint development through consultations to meet the interests of all and build a community of shared interests, destiny and responsibility, which means we should act inclusively and welcome all parties along the route to join the initiative.

What’s more, Russia as China’s strategic partner and a member of BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been advancing the Sino-Russian “the Belt and the Union” (the Silk Road Economic Belt and the EAEU) and a broader Eurasian partnership. Russia’s participation in the CPEC, including the use of the Gwadar Port, could give a boost to Sino-Russian cooperation and be a demonstration project of OBOR that will enhance future multinational cooperation.

Second, Russia and Pakistan are both friendly toward China. Pakistan, the now observer of the SCO, officially submitted its full membership application to the organization. The SCO has launched its decision process on the admittance of Pakistan and India.

As for Russia-Pakistan relations and Russia’s role in the CPEC, China is deemed as a stakeholder in the affairs and has certain influences. But China will not intervene in Russia-Pakistan relations.

In addition, Pakistan follows the balance of power theory and conducts open diplomacy in a bid to maximize its national interests, which is beyond reproach.

The Gwadar Port is also used by countries like Iran and Turkmenistan for trade. Meanwhile, Islamabad is fighting back sundry criticism from home and some Western countries.

Given the prevailing globalization and regional integration, it is not possible, realistic or necessary, for any country to monopolize one country’s economic affairs.

Third, India has been opposed to the CPEC due to the long-term tension between New Delhi and Islamabad, and its historical border disputes with China. Traditionally, Russia has developed a very good relationship with India, as well as China and Pakistan.

Russia’s presence in the CPEC would help prevent the international community, including India, from paying excessive attention to China and remove the unnecessary worries over the so-called China threat. The cooperation between BRICS countries like China, Russia and India is the key to the success of OBOR development.

Russia’s involvement in the CPEC is to serve its own interests in economy and geopolitics, which may complicate regional affairs. But if all parties stick to the market rules, China’s interests wouldn’t be harmed given that China has gained first-mover advantage, as well as capital and geographic advantages.

As was said above, Russia’s participation is not a bad thing and there is no need to exaggerate neither its competition nor negativity.

On the contrary, if Russia joins the project, it will be a stakeholder which shares economic risk, especially security risk, and has the same or similar goals. It’s a good thing.

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