CPEC, Arab League Summit, and opportunities available to Pakistan

CPECCPEC, Arab League Summit, and opportunities available to Pakistan

Shazia Anwer Cheema

May 19, 2023, would be considered a significant day in global diplomatic history when three important events took place but at different corners of Asia; having three different agendas and three different diplomatic settings. G7 in Japan, China-Central Asia Summit in Xian North Western China, and Arab League Summit in Jeddah.

   

In all three settings, there was one common player and that was China. At G7 Summit, China was under the volley of diplomatic bullets while a photo of Deputy Emir of Mecca Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz receiving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who visited Saudi Arabia after a pause of 12 years expresses how much change has taken place in the Middle East that is the direct fruit of Chinese-led initiatives.

I wrote extensively in the past when China-Iran locked themselves in a strategic partnership in 2021 that China has a clear-cut strategy of live and let live which will fully benefit the region

Cordial relations among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, and UAE are a very positive development for Pakistan which has been balancing its relations with all who were not comfortable with each other’s in the past. Just a day before of Arab League Summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on May 18, 2023, inaugurated a supply line that would add another 100 megawatts of electricity daily to Gwadar Port from Iran and everybody knows that Gwadar Port is a dream project of China that operates this deep sea port. The Port was already receiving 100 Megawatts from Iran on a daily basis and now capacity has increased to 204 megawatts.

I wrote extensively in the past when China-Iran locked themselves in a strategic partnership in 2021 that China has a clear-cut strategy of live and let live which will fully benefit the region provided Iran gets better relations with Middle Eastern partners, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia. Now all has been said and all has been done and today Iran has comfortable relations with Arab League members though it is not a member of it but the respectful rejoining of Syria to the League indicates things have significantly changed in a positive manner after the Chinese-brokered peace initiative among Iran and Arab League members.

The year 2023 is the time of global resetting, and Pakistan is the oldest and strongest partner of China, Saudi Arabia, and UAE has the greatest opportunities if Pakistan plays well and manages the completion of CPEC with extraordinary speed to catch the Chinese timeline because it is the shortest and safest route for China to reach the Middle East and Africa

Consequently, Iran–China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and Iranian support for China-run Gwadar Port have fixed the missing link of a multi-lateral economic zone spreading from Central Asia to the Middle East and Pakistan is the main connecter of this chain. It is pertinent to mention that extensive US presence through Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and AUKUS in Indo-Pacific around Chinese trade routes has increased the importance of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) because this is now the most secure route for China to reach the Middle East and as far as Africa. Consolidating diplomatic relationships among China, the Central Asian republics, Iran, Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia are considered an “interesting development” by European media that indicates the arrival of China as a “deal-initiator” in the Middle East can lead to a “Changing Asia” where countries while keeping their regional goals look determined moving towards a strategic partnership if not a full-fledged alliance. Although China did not attend Arab League Summit as Ukraine did through President Volodymyr Zelenskyy but Chinese President Xi sent a letter to Arab League calling Saudi Arabia an important force in a multipolar world and adding that Saudi Arabia has made positive contributions to strengthening solidarity and coordination among Arab countries and maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East.

To my understanding, the year 2023 is the time of global resetting, and Pakistan is the oldest and strongest partner of China, Saudi Arabia, and UAE has the greatest opportunities if Pakistan plays well and manages the completion of CPEC with extraordinary speed to catch the Chinese timeline because it is the shortest and safest route for China to reach the Middle East and Africa. It may be remembered that Middle Eastern and Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE have already been appreciating CPEC by accepting that CPEC offers new openings for economic, trade, logistics, and regional connectivity.

To my understanding whatever changes the world is watching today at the global diplomatic theatre are directly or indirectly linked with the script that was written by “New China” in 1949 that promotes the idea to offer opportunities instead of posing threats. This script has two parts– “set up a separate kitchen” and “sweep the house clean before inviting guests.”. Academicians of International Relations are of the view that setting up a separate kitchen is actually offering a different kind of rules to the outer world that is not necessary for domestic prosperity, so China could become a part of the capitalist world while strongly maintaining socialist economic design while “sweep the house clean before inviting guests” dealt with enhancing capacity to deal with the capitalist world before reaching the global market. Now entire world understands that the idea of offering opportunities instead of posing threats is the driving force behind economic growth and the Arab Summit 2023 was a manifestation of joining hands for harmony, peace, and win-win cooperation.

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