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August 11, 2020

CPEC and Indian factor

National

August 11, 2020

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an important part of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) transcontinental and trans-oceanic initiative. Under the CPEC, the port of Gwadar will connect China with Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe through a network of rail, road and motorways.

With the emergence of China as a global economic superpower, trade through the Indian Ocean is set to rise significantly in the coming decades, especially through CPEC. China is working day and night to operationalise the BRI, which aims at seeking regional and global connectivity through land and sea, launched in the year 2013.

The Indian Ocean has emerged as the centre for the regional trade as around 90,000 vessels in the world’s commercial fleet transport 9.84 billion tons of cargo through the ocean besides 40pc of world’s oil supply that also passes through the same waters. With 19.9pc of the global trade volume passing through the Indian Ocean, the total trade passing through the ocean is 70pc of the world trade in value.

On the other hand, the CPEC route also provides immense opportunities to CARs, a region that entered the world after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, to expand trade with Pakistan and also go through China for trade expansion.

In the context of geo-strategic situation in the region, CPEC offers an alternative solution to link up Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, which directly border China, as well as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, to the route, thus ruling out reliance on the traditional perception that all roads from Pakistan into the Central Asia go through Kabul or Wakhan Strip. Almost all CARs have shown interest in joining the CPEC.

With abundance of natural resources such as oil, gas, gold, and other metals, CARs have great potential to invest in CPEC-related projects and its industrial zones. Experts hope the recent improvement in bilateral relations with Russia would help and improve the prospects of wider regional connectivity through multilateral tracks. As it is, all the five Central Asian States besides Afghanistan are landlocked and don’t have access to sea. Thus, they can launch tradeand build energy corridor through the CPEC project. The dream of transit trade can be materialised through the Gwadar Port. Tajikistan could even access the Indian Ocean by connecting the China-Pakistan railway once it is completed.

The CPEC is predicted to bring industrialisation and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will obviously benefit the neighbouring Afghanistan also. Kabul is only 1,237 kms away from Gwadar, which offers a commercially and economically beneficial route for Afghanistan with much less logistical expenses.

The newly-built roads in Balochistan will enable Afghan businessmen and investors to access the enormous consumer markets in South Asia, thereby increasing Afghanistan’s exports and reducing the costs of imports.

Unfortunately, an unprecedented anti-CPEC campaign was unleashed by hostile elements, especially India, at various international fora and organisations with the aim to scuttle the project and deprive Pakistan of its benefits. Efforts were aimed at creating controversies and mistrust of the people in the mega projects through various means and exploiting fault-lines in the society.

The fact is that all allegations and misconceptions are absurd and have been denied by the Pakistan government again and again. The CPEC is neither against any country nor it has any hidden agenda. It is a manifestation of deeper and credible relations between China and Pakistan for the betterment of the people of the region.

The project will open new vistas for prosperity and peace in the region if capitalised positively. The project does not have military designs; the CPEC is an economic project aimed at linking the region with economic opportunities for participating countries.