Analyses and discussions over the CPEC have a Pakistan-driven perspective -- and rightly so. We have to safeguard our national interests and ensure the maximum benefits for the country. The Chinese have voiced concerns regarding negative CPEC talk, security and red tape. Under the umbrella of OBOR Initiative announced in 2013, China is planning to invest in 60 countries more all over the world to establish corridors. The receptivity in other countries to this initiative has been enthusiastic; however, some Chinese friends are puzzled by the skeptical and negative reactions from certain quarters in Pakistan expressed in the media, particularly on social media. This comes to them as a surprise because of the long uninterrupted record of strong bilateral relations between the two countries that were not even affected by changes in political leadership in either country. CPEC is the first project of its kind to foster economic cooperation on a massive scale for building large infrastructural projects in Pakistan.
Although, realizing that there are some external forces hostile to this initiative, Chinese analysts and participants are concerned about what they see as the misrepresentation of facts by many Pakistanis. It is not obvious to them as to what purpose is served by raising doubts and fears about CPEC in the minds of the Pakistani population. The aspersions being cast on the motives of the Chinese, such as the analogy with the East India Company or Pakistan becoming a satellite of China, are very unnerving: external detractors of CPEC pick up these reports and after bundling them as ‘risks’ of CPEC to Pakistan, disseminate them widely. The Chinese argue that a specific country has been a policy instrument for investment in Pakistan’s energy sector for a very long time. When the country was facing serious energy shortages, no one else came to Pakistan’s rescue and invested in the sector. Now China has come forward with a planned investment of 70 per cent of the total CPEC allocation under the certain policy.
Unfortunately, some political elements are trying to paint a negative picture of CPEC because of their vested interests. The war of interests and public opinion shaping is going to be fought. The need of the hour, however, is to put the CPEC in an exact context so that the people of Pakistan may get the exact idea about the importance of the project. A lot of propaganda is in the air regarding the routes and the economic impact of CPEC. After the Chinese ambassador stated clearly that the Western Route is part of the plan and construction of the route has already begun, rationality suggests that the debate and politics of the western route should come to an end now. Yet there are some concerns which the government really needs to address. Hence the finances, pressures, lobbying, and propaganda are in full swing. There is nothing new in saying that even in these free times, the sources and structures, which give information and shape the public opinion on the basis of their own propagated information, are one of the most effective tools. And it’s an open secret that most of those tools are in control of the US and its allies. It is therefore not difficult for them to malign, spread misinformation and create a negative image of the project.
However, instead of being feel obliged, several questions are being raised as had it involved extraction of natural resources from Pakistan for the benefit of the Chinese, this criticism would have been justifiable. On the contrary, the benefits of this investment would be exclusively appropriated by Pakistan’s industries and households that would no longer face loadshedding while the country would record a 2pc annual rise in the GDP growth. Projects under the CPEC will grow in number and thus create opportunities. Jobs and businesses will progress. Economic activity is expected to trickle down the benefits of progress and well-being to all the strata of society, in the context of CPEC, should be viewed as an opportunity.
Residents of Balochistan, KPK, and GB need to understand that economic and infrastructure development is the only thing that will bring prosperity in their areas. Political parties need to play a positive role as Pakistan needs a consensus among all stakeholders to avoid discussion on CPEC for domestic political gains.