CHINA PAKISTAN ECONOMIC CORRIDOR (CPEC)

The CPEC is a 3,000-kilometre network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and  gas from Gwadar Port to Kashgar city, northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, China Daily reports. China and Pakistan have agreed to build One Belt One Road project more commonly known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is expected to bring about both peace and prosperity in South Asia. This corridor will link between Kashgar in north-western China to Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran via roads, railways and pipelines. Expected cost was $46 billion but it increased up to S54 billion. There are many internal and external challenges for Pakistan government to implement this multi-dollars project. However, it is a game changer project which will transform the fate of Pakistan and will help Pakistan modernize. It will improve the economy and trade, enhance regional connectivity, overcome energy crises, develop infrastructure and establish people to people contacts in both the countries.

Proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013, the CPEC would act as a bridge for the new Maritime Silk Route that envisages linking three billion people in Asia, Africa and Europe .

The project links China’s strategy to develop its western region with Pakistan’s focus on boosting its economy, including the infrastructure construction of Gwadar Port, together with some energy cooperation and investment programs. It also involves road and railway construction including an upgrade of the 1,300-km Karakoram Highway, the highest paved international road in the world which connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountains.

The CPEC will reduce China’s routes of oil and gas imports from Africa and the Middle East by thousands of kilometers, making Gwadar a potentially vital link in China’s supply chain.

With the support of China, Pakistan has gained significant importance not only in the region but the entire world. In recent years, both China and Pakistan have been making concerted efforts to revive the historic Silk Road which is one of the oldest known trade route in the world and will provide a route for trade from Kashgar (China) to Gwadar (Pakistan). China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan will help Pakistan to become one of the most strategically important countries in the region. It will also provide an opportunity to China to build a naval base on Gwadar port that will increase influence of China in the region and also counter US influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The CBS News quoted some Western diplomats on Pakistan-China partnership. According to them,
China’s increasing economic engagement with Pakistan should be seen in the context of Beijing’s “efforts to counter the US efforts to deepen alliances around the Asia-Pacific region”.

The “One Belt One Road” concept has international strategic importance. The One Belt One Road initiative covers countries and regions with a total population of 4.4 billion and a total economic volume of US $21 trillion, 63 % and 29 %, respectively of the World.

According to the assessment of the Corridor, the plan is involved in laying the foundation for regional cooperation, improving economic growth, offering trade diversifications, investing in transportation, mining and energy sectors and creating political flexibility. It is a vision with world-changing implications, an unfolding plan that would weave much of Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and the Middle East much more closely together through a patchwork of diplomacy, new infrastructure and free trade zones.

The “One Belt one Road” Project consists of three routes, southern, central and northern route. The southern corridor begins from Guangzhou, which is the third largest city of China in South Central China. This route moves towards western parts of China and connects Kashgar with Pakistan at Khunjarab – a point from where China wants to link to Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea. It is the shortest and the most feasible option for China.

The second Chinese option is the Central Corridor that starts from Shanghai and links the country to Tashkent, Tehran and onwards to Bandar Imam Khomeini Port of Iran on the Persian Gulf. One of its branches goes up towards Europe. This is the longer route but could be an option, if Pakistan does not deliver on the timelines of completing its road network to become a beneficiary of the New Silk Road Economic Belt. The third Chinese option is the Northern Corridor that starts from Beijing, passes through Russia, and links it to European cities.

Recognizing the fact that regional integration is an inevitable measure to meet the demands of economically globalized world, the notion of Silk Road was reformulated and rephrased by China in 2013 under ‘one road, one belt’ initiative, i.e., economic belt along the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road.

Pakistan is a significant partner for China as it links China to the Central Asia, Southern Asian region and Middle East and its major deep-sea port Gwadar offers direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond. Both countries have been working on enhancing their coordination and strategic communication to safeguard common interests. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) represents a new model of Pakistan and China cooperation which will serve against the backdrop of complex and changing regional and international situations.

China and Pakistan have developed strong bilateral trade and economic ties and cooperation over the years. China has gradually emerged as Pakistan’s major trading partner both in terms of exports and imports. Bilateral trade and commercial links between the two countries were established in January 1963 when both signed the first bilateral long-term trade agreement. Both countries signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on November 24, 2006 and implemented from July 1, 2007. Later on, both signed the FTA on Trade in Services on February 21, 2009 that became active from October 10 that year.

CPEC is an under-construction mega-project which will achieve the political and economic objectives through trade and development and will also strengthen the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. This corridor will also be helpful in creating regional stability in South Asia.

After completion of the corridor, it will function as a primary gateway for trade between China and Africa and the Middle East. It is expected that this corridor will help cut the 12,000-kilometre route which Middle East oil supplies must now take to reach the Chinese ports.

This project will run through most of Pakistan starting from Gwadar in Balochistan and ending in Kashgar in western China, while passing through parts of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan to reach the Khunjrab Pass and beyond to China.

Pakistan has prepared a plan to construct three corridors after active consultation with the Chinese authorities; these are the eastern alignment, the central alignment and the western alignment.

The eastern alignment of the corridor originates from Gwadar, travels parallel to the Makran Coastal Highway eastwards (towards Karachi), and then after passing through parts of interior Sindh, and southern, central and northern regions of Punjab, it reaches Islamabad. From Islamabad, it extends to Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra districts of the relatively peaceful Hazara Division in KP – this part of the corridor will also run through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir – and reaches Khunjrab after passing through Diamer and Gilgit areas in northern Pakistan. The corridor will also run through the Pamir Plateau and Karakoram mountains. A link from Taxila through Peshawar and Torkhum will connect the eastern alignment of the corridor to Jalalabad in Afghanistan Regional connectivity with India through the eastern alignment is designed to be provided through the Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar-Zero Point link and the Wagha border, Lahore.

Western alignment was the original alignment which the government says has been deferred until the eastern alignment of the corridor is completed. According to the western alignment plan, the economic corridor (highway and railway) starts from Gwadar and runs through some southern and eastern districts of Balochistan (Khuzdar and Dera Bugti, respectively), and some districts in south Punjab to reach D. I. Khan in KP. From D. I. Khan, it further extends to Islamabad and Abbottabad and from there onwards, the route is the same as in the eastern alignment. The western alignment will have an additional regional connectivity link to Afghanistan through Chaman and will connect with Iran through Quetta-Kho-e-Taftan link.

Following are the challenges for Pakistan.
Pakistan faces several challenges in the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. These challenges can be identified as external and internal. The Vice Director General of Policy Research Office at the International Department of the Central Committee Communist Party of China, Dr. Luan Jianzhang is of the view that political unrest, security situation and administrative issues are some of the greatest challenges in the way of successful completion of the corridor.

The construction of the corridor has been defined by many as a strategic moment such that Pakistan has assumed the position of economic pivot for the whole region. This paradigm shift in circumstances is a cause of great worry for the enemies of Pakistan both within and outside. India, Israel and the US are unhappy. For India, CPEC is a thorn in its paw. They have put their heads together to work out new strategies to block the project forward march. RAW has opened a special office in Delhi and has been allotted $300 million to disrupt CPEC. Already one can notice sudden upsurge in the acts of terror in the three restive regions and activation of certain NGOs and think tanks all trying to air misgivings and create fear psychosis.

In Pakistan, some political parties like ANP, Baloch nationalists, PkMAP raised serious objections to the CPEC project. Even PTI and JUI (F) showed inclinations to climb the bandwagon or anti-CPEC forces. Objections were being raised despite assurances by the government that this project will provide equal opportunities to all the provinces.

Security concerns have been the most critical challenge to the CPEC and both Pakistan and China have been trying to meet these. An arc of militancy stretches from Xinjiang to Gwadar consisting of groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Daesh (ISIS), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the militant wings of some political parties. Most of these groups may not have an enmity with China itself but rather intend to attacks the Chinese interests like the CPEC as a means to deal with the Pakistani state.

Gwadar is the tail of the Silk belt, which will connect at Kashgar through different communication networks. The security of the whole corridor and Gwadar is a real concern for China. After the military operation in different parts of Pakistan, the terrorist infrastructure still exists inside and outside of the borders which will continue to pose a threat. The support of American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW has continuously been assisting the militant groups and sub-nationalists in all the provinces to conduct subversive acts-and using terrorist elements in the whole country to threaten the Pak-Chinese plans of developing the CPEC. In the past few years, they kidnapped and killed many Chinese nationals in Pakistan despite Pakistan’s efforts to provide best possible security. The army has announced the creation of 10,000 man special force for protecting the development projects. The new force, named the Special Security Division, will comprise nine army battalion and. six wings of paramilitary forces, the Rangers and the Frontier Corps.

As an economic enterprise, for the CPEC, the greatest challenge comes from competitors. The most significant is the Iranian port of Chabahar. India intends to invest significantly ($85 million) in the development of Chabahar, which lies a few miles away from Gwadar and is part of its efforts for access to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia while bypassing rival Pakistan. Chabahar will effectively be a way station for energy imports coming from the Gulf region and destined for Afghanistan and Central Asia. It will also be a gateway to the Middle East, and possibly Europe, for exports originating from Afghanistan and Central Asia. While the Chabahar project has not yet been started due to the ongoing talks on the Iranian nuclear issue, the Gwadar port has already become
functional. However, there is no need for contention between these two ports. Iran has a stake in the CPEC through the proposal to link the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline with China, which has been described as a “common interest” between the three countries.

Indian involvement in Chabahar is linked to Pakistan’s refusal to allow India access of transit to and from Afghanistan, so India sees Iran as the next-best option. If Pakistan extends transit facilities to India, and then India may not be interested in building up Chabahar. In recent years, India has been particularly active in engaging Central Asian states for the sake of pursuing energy deals. India can be easily accommodated via the CPEC itself through eastern interface in Punjab and Sindh and transformed into a stakeholder in the success of both Gwadar and the CPEC.

The dice of connectivity loaded by China has left India confused and bewildered. India is also concerned about China’s huge investment in Pakistan, particularly its recent decision to fund for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China is also helping Pakistan in producing plutonium at the Chinese built Kyushu reactor and will also sell eight submarines worth $5 billion, which will give a quantum jump to Pak Navy’s sea capability.

After the completion of CPEC, Pakistan may become a trade hub in the region after Gwadar Port starts functioning fully and duty-free economic zones are set up. Many Central Asian states have also expressed interest in becoming part of the corridor. This strategic partnership between Pakistan and China has upset India that openly voiced its opposition and even premier Narendra Modi pressed the president of China during his visit to Beijing to drop the plan of developing the corridor. However, China did not cave in to the pressure and vowed to push ahead with work on the project.

India is also not happy with the handing over of Gwadar Port development and its operations China. There have long been reports that Delhi is fuelling insurgency in Balochistan, which is rich in oil and gas resources, but poor law and order conditions have halted work on exploration activities there. Experts believe the India-UAE nexus will try to fail the Gwadar Port development project and create hurdles in the way of exploration activities in Balochistan.

With Chinese clout growing and Russia flexing muscles to regain control over Central Asia, India is struggling to make some headway and spread its sphere of influence in the region. Delhi has bet on Iran and Afghanistan to reach the Central Asian states via land route as Pakistan and China have control over many land links that provide access to the resource-rich region. India hopes it will be able to reach Central Asia through the Iranian port of Chabahar and build a north-south corridor that will run to Afghanistan and eventually stretch to Central Asia.

Pakistan has been playing a significant role in South Asia. After the completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor economic, commercial as well as geostrategic environment will improve in Pakistan. It will help Pakistan in dealing with the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequities of undeveloped provinces. During his meeting with President Xi Jinping, President Mamnoon Hussain said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would prove to be a game-changer in the whole region by generating massive trade and economic activity and opening new vistas of progress and prosperity for the people of the two countries and about three billion people of the region.

CPEC from all counts will prove a game changer and will make China a real stakeholder in Pakistan’s stability and security. It is a win-win situation for both. It will greatly expand the scope for the sustainable and stable development of China’s economic development. Investments by China will boost Pakistan’s $274 billion GDP by over 15 %. Corresponding progress and prosperity in Pakistan and China’s patronage will help Pakistan in getting rid of the decade old labels of ‘epicenter of terrorism’, ‘most dangerous country’ and a ‘failing state’. Pakistan enjoys a more favorable fiscal situation compared to India by reducing its budget deficit to 4.7% of GDP in 2014 (as against India’s 7%) and Pakistan is both competitive and cheaper as an emerging market. China’s economic and military assistance will help Pakistan a great deal in narrowing its ever widening gap in economic-military-nuclear fields with India and in bettering its defense potential.

Ambassador of China to Pakistan Sun Weidong while talking about the corridor said that the setting up of energy, transport, infrastructure and industrial projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would benefit all the provinces of Pakistan. He said that the CPEC was not limited to just a road but it will connect the country with a number of motorways and infrastructure projects. He explained that infrastructure projects included Gwadar port, the second phase of the upgrading project of Karakoram Highway, motorway project between Karachi and Lahore, Thakot-Havelian motorway, Gwadar port expressway, Gwadar international airport and Karachi-Sukkur motorway, adding further that the project will increase collaboration in areas of energy, finance, commerce,
banking, industry and education.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will help build a robust and stable economy in Pakistan and will create a significant opportunity for Pakistan to revive its industry and advance its economic interests. It will also help in overcoming the psychological barriers to flows of foreign investment from other sources. Despite its restrictive economic regime, over 150 private equity funds, foreign and domestic, are active in India, Only three or four such funds are dedicated to investing government, with the participation of the private sector, to encourage foreign direct investment in Pakistan is indispensable. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said war phobia can also be defeated through economic development. Peace and prosperity can be achieved with economic advancement.

This project will go beyond regional ambits to bring about enormous changes not only to the national economies of the benefiting states but also to the economics of the people at the grass roots level.

CPEC is the crown jewel in the new Pakistan economic paradigm because Pakistan has the opportunity to act independently of the western influence especially the US influence as it has proved of late, an irritant factor, CPEC project will also bring an opportunity to Pakistan for normalization or ties with India, Iran and Afghanistan which will keep balance, strengthen prospects of peace and improve socio-economic status of the people of the region.

CPEC is a game changer project which will lift millions of Pakistanis out of poverty and misery. The project embraces the construction of textile garment, industrial park projects, construction of dams, the installation of nuclear reactors and creating networks of road, railway line which will generate employment and people will also take ownership of these projects. Fully equipped hospitals, technical and vocational training institutes, water supply and distribution in undeveloped areas will also improve the quality of life of people.

CPEC is not only the name of road, port and railway system but a multi-dollars mega project
which will bring peace and prosperity in all the provinces of Pakistan. The chairman of the Gwadar
port, Dostain Khan Jamaldini said that the CPEC would not only benefit Balochistan but also prove
beneficial for the country’s three other provinces.