CPEC: The Game Changer For Pakistan:
China– Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of Mr. Xi Jinping “One Belt One Road Initiative”, is an accumulation of infrastructure and energy projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan. Initially valued at $46 billion, the investment has now grown to $62 billion. CPEC is expected to modernize Pakistan’s infrastructure and reinforce its economy by the development of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones and connect Pakistan to oil rich countries of Central Asia, trade markets of South Asia and of course China .
CPEC’s potential effect on Pakistan could be overarching. Pakistani authorities foresee that CPEC will bring about the creation of 2.3 million jobs between 2015– 2030, and add 2 to 2.5 to annual growth rate of the economy. If all the ventures of CPEC are actualized then the value of those projects would be roughly equivalent to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970. No surprises why CPEC is dubbed as game changer for Pakistan.
An extended system of highways and railways are to be constructed under the aegis of CPEC that will traverse across Pakistan. Poor infrastructure is estimated to cost around a loss of 3.5% of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Modern transportation systems constructed under CPEC will connect seaports in Gwadar and Karachi with northern Pakistan, and also extends further north in western China and Central Asia. A 1,100 kilometer long motorway is under construction between the urban cities of Karachi and Lahore as a major project of CPEC, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be totally overhauled and reconstructed. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 km per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. The funds required for the completion of these projects will be provided at concessional rates by the Chinese owned banks.
Over $33 billion worth of energy infrastructure projects are to be built by private consortia to help ameliorate Pakistan’s constant energy deficiencies of around 5000 MW, which have shed an expected 2– 2.5% off Pakistan’s yearly total national output. More than 10,400MW of energy is expected to be included in the national grid by the end of 2018, developed as part of CPEC’s fast-tracked “Early Harvest” projects. A system of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will likewise be laid as a feature of the task, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to eventually transport gas from Iran. Electricity from these projects will primarily be generated from fossil fuels, though hydroelectric and wind-power projects are also included, as is the construction of one of the world’s largest solar farms. Presently more than 50 energy projects are in pipeline stage under the auspices of CPEC.
Strategic Objectives of China:
China has vital strategic objectives. A more powerful and stable Pakistan would unquestionably act as counterbalance in the region to the extending security cooperation between India and America. Also there is Islamist militancy, which spills once again into Xinjiang; China hopes to dissuade people away from fundamentalism and extremism through development and progress. There is also a security paradigm for Chinese. There is a consensus among security experts that in case of future war in Asia, United States’ Navy can block the Strait of Malacca which will choke out China’s trade route. CPEC, other than giving a backup course of action, will lessen the delivery time, from China to Europe, from 45 days 10 days. Moreover, China needs to access new markets for its items, and additionally new territory for infrastructure and industrial projects. Above all, CPEC has turned into the primary plank of Mr Xi’s ambitious “belt-and-road” initiative, whereby improved infrastructure will help to fortify economic ties and thus increase China’s influence in Asia and beyond. CPEC has to be seen to work for the broader scheme to seem both credible and appealing.
Many commentators are now comparing CPEC with East India Company, a comparison which greatly upsets Chinese. IMF has warned that Pakistan may struggle to reimburse China’s loans, which could provoke a balance of payment crisis. Pakistan’s national economists have in the past lamented an absence of transparency encompassing CPEC contracts; suspicion abounds that Pakistani citizens have been duped. Furthermore, security is an issue. Baluchistan has been facing nationalist and separatist insurgencies, supported by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies. In past, Taliban (TTP) too has claimed responsibilities for attacks on Chinese nationals. The success of CPEC is undoubtedly hinged on the safety of Chinese working on CPEC. Fortunately, Pakistan army is a well organized institution having adequate resources and counterterrorism capabilities to deal with security related issues. Thus, it expected of army to effectively diffuse security related issues of CPEC.
CPEC is a lifetime opportunity for Pakistan to put its economy on the path of development. However, completion of CPEC projects will be an uphill task particularly due to negative involvement of India and Afghanistan and tacit disapproval of United States. Therefore, Pakistan will have to be on guard to dismantle the conspiracies against CPEC. It can also do well for the cause of CPEC, if the agreements concluded are made public as transparency will definitely shed the impression that there is a hidden agenda of CPEC. Everyone must play its role for the success of CPEC as Pakistan’s future is dependent on it.