The CPEC debate
The environment, in which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will operate, has opportunities. The two states will link up through the corridor and fulfil their needs. However, there are existential challenges to the corridor. The threat of terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and regional peace make the terrain difficult. The coming of CPEC in an environment having extremist tendencies offers a new trend of connectivity and cooperation. The corridor can be called the outcome of regional imbalances, purported by transnational challenges. Pakistan and China, through a collaborative framework, want to strengthen their cooperation in the fields of trade, energy security and technology. The growth pattern of both the countries may vary widely, but both the countries have progressed and defied odds in one way or the other. China has an economic muscle, and as evidenced from the upcoming Belt & Road initiative, the East Asian player has progressed beyond the regional sphere. Pakistan has fought back militancy and is still stable, led by a democratic government. Despite the shortcomings because of the economic situation and governance issues, the country continues to move forward. Thus, both the players have stood up against the odds, and have contributed towards regional peace.
The work on CPEC is in progress. There are, however, certain segments (within and outside) who are skeptical about the project. The detractors of CPEC have tried to project that the corridor would benefit China more and will entangle Pakistan with economic woes. However, looking at the job potential in backward provinces and the human resource indicators, once the development work is in progress, through joint ventures with Chinese companies, Pakistani people can be trained. This will open up the provinces to the outside world and the people will also have an opportunity to improve their skills.
Pakistan and China economic cooperation under the framework of CPEC is likely to broaden. Both the countries have devised an ‘action plan’ to cooperate in agriculture, education, port development and maritime sector. The agricultural cooperation between the Xinjiang Agriculture University and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad is already in place. China will invest $200 million in Pakistan’s seafood, steel and agriculture sector to boost bilateral business. The mining sector is also likely to flourish. Balochistan is rich in mineral resources. These economic activities will promote micro, medium and small-sized industries, thereby, opening up job prospects for the local population. Moreover, with Chinese goods in local markets, the local industry will have to catch up with foreign standards to enhance the quality of products. This competition will also introduce the local entrepreneurs to other markets. At the regional front, CPEC offers optimism to regional players, as the connectivity will provide access to energy resources and open up prospects of trade cooperation. The Gwadar seaport will be a trading hub for the adjoining regions and countries. However, the competing trends at the regional front has made certain quarters hesitant to the corridor. India has explicitly voiced concern over CPEC which is in line with its obsession towards Pakistan.
The CPEC is a reflection of present-day realities as it foretells the significance of economic prowess in battling the transnational challenges and threats. The claimants of a weak Pakistan need to have a ground look: Pakistan has fought back the disgruntled elements at home and at the regional front. CPEC is a reality and it will bring in economic prosperity which will make Pakistan politically strong and more stable. The time has come for Pakistan to lead the Third World. We have the manpower and intellect to do it.
By Amna Ejaz Rafi