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May 15, 2015

A corridor to a new era

Islamabad

 
May 15, 2015

Pakistan and China are in a mutually advantageous relationship since a long time. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Pakistan signed in 2006 has made China the largest supplier of goods to Pakistan and in the past decade trade from China to Pakistan has increased eight times. Recently signed Sino-Pak agreement, to make China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), across, will give more opportunities to Pakistan and China to benefit from each other’s resources and further strengthen and deepen their economic and strategic ties. The economic corridor, across 3000km, will facilitate China with a short land route access to the warm waters of Arabian Sea which will reduce its dependence on the longer routes of Indian Ocean. It will connect the port of Gawadar, in proximity with Iranian border, with China’s Xinjiang which is closer to the Arabian Sea than Shanghai.
The expected benefits from the CPEC are going to take Pakistan to a new level of economic strength. The plan to link, through rail, road and oil and gas pipeline, Kashgar in western region of China with Gawadar port in Baluchistan will attract investments and boost trade flows. The CPEC also entails setting up of economic zones, with a focus on energy production which will address Pakistan’s future energy requirements. China is also going to help Pakistan with a tune of $2 billion to complete Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Chinese President has termed CPEC as a ‘1+4’ cooperation structure with the idea to deliver tangible benefits to the people of Pakistan; economic corridor is going to be heart of Pak-China economic nexus and Gawadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation are going to be the other four areas.
The idea of CPEC was under consideration for almost a decade but it got real attention when Pakistan shifted its contract, of up gradation and operation of Gawadar sea port, form Port of Singapore Authority to China Overseas Port holdings. During Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China last November the Chinese banks and companies pledged to invest US$46 billion for projects, $11 billion for infrastructural development and $35 billion in energy, in Pakistan. This huge investment can be appreciated by comparing it with $7.5 billion program, in place since 2008, by US Congress.
CPEC, a bouquet of projects, has clasped several ongoing projects in its grip. In Baluchistan it includes Gawadar port’s expansion, construction of east-west expressway and building up on an international airport at Gawadar. Chinese investment is also expected to add, 16000 Megawatts of electricity, as a result of $15.5 billion in coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects, by 2021 communication network between Pakistan and China which will substantially reduce electricity shortfall of Pakistan. CPEC also includes an investment of $44 million for laying down optical fiber cable network between Pakistan and China.
The security dimension of CPEC is evident from the apprehensions being raised by the government of India. According to Indian strategic think tanks Chinese-built Gawadar port, besides being a terminal to CPEC, will eventually serve as naval facility of China who is the main supplier of Pakistan’s military hardware. And has facilitated the construction of four nuclear power plants of which two are under construction.
CPEC project has been initiated at a time when Pakistan, one of the worst terror-hit countries, is fighting a crucial and decisive war against the terrorists present on its soil. And at the same time Pakistan is engaged with the Indian-initiated border skirmishes as well as the terror outfits pouring through the porous Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan’s relationship with India and Afghanistan are extremely important for the success of CPEC. At the domestic level the security task, at all levels, has been assigned to Pakistan Army and a special battalion, headed by a Major General, in the army has been created to ensure security of Chinese workers and engineers in this intensive developmental effort.
At the international level China also aware of the essence of regional peace for this project to succeed, is trying to engage with all the stake holders. In December last year China hosted a delegation of Afghan Taliban which was part of these efforts. According to senior geo-political analysts India’s concerns can only be addressed if other regional players participate to enhance and improve connectivity for economic development.
CPEC has the potential to bring prosperity in the entire region therefore it is important to flush out politics from this project. Political entities of Pakistan who have a province-centric or ethnic-centric approach towards every developmental initiative should widen their vision-horizon and think purely for Pakistan. It is also important that we as Pakistani, especially the younger generation, should develop a national fervor for the national projects and do not fall prey to the negative propaganda being floated on the social media by anti-Pakistan forces. To all the aspirants of new Pakistan the good news is that a new and prosperous Pakistan is not far away!