CPEC is South Asia's destiny
Gwadar Port in Balochistan
The $69 billion project has brought new hope, and public participation in national development has buoyed The $69 billion project has brought new hope, and public participation in national development has buoyed
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor simply reflects the growing economic diversity of Pakistan, as it reconnects with the region. It obviously is a shot in the arm as far as its trade and commerce relations with neighbours are concerned, especially with the economic superpower, China. With more than seven decades of cordial relations with Beijing, Islamabad is now just being realistic to connect the dots and reincarnate the traditional Silk Route and northern hemisphere countries' accessibility to the warm waters in the south. Thus, the $69 billion ambitious CPEC package has dividends for not only Pakistan's economic and foreign relations, but also for other countries in the region to recraft a new relationship by leaving behind animosities of history and bad blood.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, CPEC is lifeline for development, and is the easiest way out to overcome stagnation. It is intended to promote connectivity across the length and breadth of Pakistan by building a network of highways, railways, and energy pipelines, inevitably upgrading the fragile infrastructure for a new era of development. CPEC-led communication and energy projects are a blessing in disguise for Pakistan's reclusive regions, especially in its north towards China and the restive Balochistan province. These projects, moreover, have brought new hope among the people, and public participation in national development and faith in their promising future has buoyed.
This new trade linkage on the regional level that connects China to the Indian Ocean, linking the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, is an epoch-making strategic development, and could act as a game-changer in international politics. It collaborates with the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative outlined by Beijing in March 2015, as the highly ambitious plan calls for renewed investment in roads, railways, pipelines, ports and information networks to further economic connectivity across Asia and into Africa and Europe.
Pakistan, while being strategically placed, has simply furthered the envelope by acting as an instant bridge between the ancient Eurasian 'Silk Road Economic Belt' and a Southeast Asian 'Maritime Silk Road'. For Pakistan, China's flagship project has come as a bonanza at a very crucial time of its existence providing an opportunity to recollect its synergies and build its economic edifice anew.
It is hoped that with the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has come strong on an agenda of self-reliance and austerity, will resynchronise the entire paradigm and put it in a win-win situation for Pakistan and the region. In essence, CPEC is Pakistan's kinetic strength, as it brings with it a kick-start liquidity of more than $50 billion, enough to turn around its dilapidated state of affairs into a mushrooming economy. It will not only help build infrastructure and boost energy production, CPEC will be an instant window of employment from labour to vocational, and from engineering to management avenues all across Pakistan.
The pivotal point is that CPEC has dividends for foreign relations, as it is a medium for competition and sustainability in the region and beyond. Pakistan as the world's 24th largest economy and with a population of 220 million could act as a thermostat for the region, observing regional trade influx and at the same time providing connectivity at a nominal cost. The magnet of the project is the Gwadar city and port in Balochistan, and its immediate outlet to the warm waters in the Arabian Sea.
It goes without saying that CPEC is also a bonanza deal for the UAE, as it is the easiest route to Afghanistan, China and beyond through Pakistan. Given the cordial relations that Pakistan enjoys with the UAE and China, Pakistan's landscape can act as a supersonic corridor for trade, commercial and industrial activity, and that too with utmost understanding of security concerns of all the three stakeholders. The UAE, which is a hub for international commerce, can look up to CPEC as a secure passageway to Southeast Asia and Russia.
For Pakistan, CPEC is no less than a goldmine as it reorients itself instantly with the $10 trillion Chinese markets. Moreover, the Free Trade Agreement with China and harmonious relations with other countries in the region will post Pakistan as the preferred destination for transit trade and investment. Pakistan was recently upgraded from a frontier economy to an emerging market in the MSCI index. This is why it is hoped that Pakistan could soon be able to post around 8 per cent growth with the completion of CPEC projects in 2019. The reason is simple, Pakistan's GDP will grow due to improved energy production, which now also corresponds with the building of new water dams, and laying of new logistical routes. It will put Pakistan in the comfort zone of a resilient economy, and foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are also projected to the tune of millions of dollars.
CPEC is a strategic gambit, but without any collaterals and misgivings. It is a mark of bilateral friendship, which now goes multilateral. Beijing and Islamabad have to keep their heads high and watch out for non-state actors who could try to play foul. This intensified and expanded bilateral cooperation is an opportunity for all to pool in their resources and make use of geography as a tool for growth and positivity.