By Shakeel Ahmad Ramay
CPEC has been conceived and designed to foster the economic development, the well-being of people without compromising the needs of future generations. It is the flagship project of the Belt & Route Initiative (BRI) with the elements of the Chinese vision of eco-civilization.
Apart from direct 83,000 jobs (latest figure of 2020) and indirect jobs through 100 SMEs, it also helped to improve the connectivity in and of Pakistan
Although the name suggests the key role of Pakistan and China, it has wider relevance for the region and beyond. A deep dive into the conceptual and implementation framework of CPEC highlights two major dimensions of the CPEC. First, it is designed to foster the economic revival and development of Pakistan. Second, it will enhance multidimensional connectivity at a wider scale.
The relevancy of CPEC for the economic agenda of Pakistan has been proven by the results of the first phase of CPEC. Apart from direct 83,000 jobs (latest figure of 2020) and indirect jobs through 100 SMEs, it also helped to improve the connectivity in and of Pakistan. Pakistan has built an extensive network of infrastructures like Peshawar-Karachi Motorway, Multan-Sukkur Section (392 KM), KKH Phase-II Havelian-Thakot, and orange metro in Lahore are major achievements of the first phase. There is also a good number of projects which are near completion including Khuzdar- Basima N-30 (46 percent), Awaran- Hoshab Section of M-8, Eastbay Expressway (84 percent), and Construction of Motorway from Burhan-Hakla on M-I to D.I. Khan (85 percent). Fiber optic and Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast are other two major milestones on the digital front for improving connectivity infrastructure.
Gwadar will also provide alternative routes to countries from Europe, Western Asia, North Africa, and others to reach China
There is also a long list of projects in the pipeline which will help to boost the connectivity. The major projects include Mirpur-Mangla-Muzaffarabad-Mansehra Road, Improvement and widening of Gilgit-Shandur-Chitral road dualization & improvement of N-50 from Yarik-Sagu-Zhob including Zhob bypass, Sukkar-Hyderabad (M-6), and Peshawar-D.I. Khan Motorway etc. However, ML-1 is one of the most important and game-changing projects in the term of connectivity. It has been finalized and will be built through concessional financing. It is perceived that it will give impetus to affordable and quality mobility of human and goods in Pakistan. By linking ML-1 with ML-2 and ML-3, it will help Pakistan to connect with Iran. In the future, ML-1 from Islamabad can also be extended to China, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.
Gwadar port, the jewel of CPEC has been envisioned and planned for enhancing connectivity in the region and beyond. It is operational now and acting as an emerging hub of transit trade and connectivity. Afghanistan, at present, is one of the biggest beneficiaries. It has opened doors of new opportunities for Afghanistan.
China will also be a beneficiary and she can use Gwadar for multiple economic purposes. Gwadar will also provide alternative routes to countries from Europe, Western Asia, North Africa, and others to reach China. It will be a secure, reliable, cheap, and less time-consuming route. For example, traveling time for Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Germany, France to China will be reduced by 24, 21, 20, 21, and 21 days respectively.
The vision of CPEC encourages building linkages with other initiatives to enhance the benefits for everyone by adopting win-win cooperation formula. There can be many initiatives but this article focuses on four initiatives; 1) Middle Corridor by Turkey, 2) Khaf-Herat Railway which is part of the International North-South Transportation corridor, 3) Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul railway and 4) Bangladesh-China-Myanmar-India (BCMI) corridor, which is part of BRI. Middle Corridor is also known as Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor. It has been designed by Turkey to connect with Central Asia, China and provides an alternative route to China to Europe. It also overlaps with a certain part of the China-Central Asia-West Asia corridor with one exception, it bypasses Iran.
Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul railway is another initiative that can benefit from CPEC and open new opportunities for Afghanistan and Central Asia
CPEC can provide the link to connect Middle Corridor with Iran. For that purpose, Pakistan-China will have to connect CPEC to Central Asia through Afghanistan. The good thing is that China-Pakistan is already working to expand CPEC to Afghanistan and connect South Asia with Central Asia. It will be a win-win situation for everyone. As it will provide an opportunity to energy-hungry economies of South Asia to access the energy-rich economies of Central Asia. South Asia will have an alternative and affordable market of energy and other natural resources like cotton etc. It will also be an opportunity for Central Asia to enhance its trade through the warm waters of Gwadar and other ports of Pakistan. On other hand, Iran can enhance linkages to South Asia and Central Asia by connecting to CPEC. Iran can also look for options to connect the Khaf-Herat Railway with CPEC and BRI. The signing of the China-Iran 25 years partnership agreement can assist to achieve the objective.
Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul railway is another initiative that can benefit from CPEC and open new opportunities for Afghanistan and Central Asia. It is a 6,500-kilometer railway line that covers 1,950 kilometers in Turkey, 2,600 kilometers in Iran, and 1,990 kilometers in Pakistan. It will reduce travel time to 11 days from 21 days through Sea route. It will help to transport 750 million tons of goods. It is an initiative under the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which offers the opportunity to extend it to other member countries of ECO i.e. Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. By creating linkages with CPEC it can also be extended to China and other corridors of BRI.
There should be a constructive dialogue among all civilizations. Pakistan can provide a platform for dialogue, as Pakistan does not have any such pressure of history.
BCMI is another corridor of BRI, which can usher a new era of cooperation among countries if connected with CPEC. It will create linkages among three regions South Asia, South East Asia, and Central Asia. For India, it will provide an excellent opportunity to connect with Afghanistan and Central Asia by the land route through Pakistan. It is the dream of India to connect via the land route to Afghanistan and Central Asia and asking Pakistan to allow her to materialize this dream. On other hand, Pakistan can reach South East Asia and can also build linkages to Nepal (which can be negotiated separately).
Hence, from the discussion above we can deduce that CPEC provides an excellent opportunity to connect different initiatives and usher in a new era of economic growth and development. It will help countries to fight the challenges of food insecurity, poverty, and health, etc. By building linkages, the participating countries will be in a better position to eliminate conflicts. It will be a win-win proposition for all participating countries, regions, and the business community.
Howbeit, for that purpose countries, need to take few steps. First, the countries should make efforts to shed off the baggage of history and come out of a mindset of tit for tat (especially the South and West Asian countries). We have witnessed the havoc of this policy. So, there is a need to come out of this mentality. Second, there should be no superiority competition among the civilizations as, we know these all initiatives involve custodians of different civilizations including Chinese, Iranian, Ottoman, and Indus. There should be a constructive dialogue among all civilizations. Pakistan can provide a platform for dialogue, as Pakistan does not have any such pressure of history. Third, countries should focus on one word the “cooperation”. It will be key to build consensus and trust. The cooperation must be based on the principle of a win-win proposition. It will pave the way for a “community with a shared future” with the goals of prosperity and peace on a sustainable basis.
Note: The writer Shakeel Ahmad Ramay is a Political Economist working with an Islamabad-based Think Tank. He can be reached at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.