The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been entering its end stage, since the idea was floated by Premier Li Keqian and later elaborated by President Xi Jinping in 2013. Since then, there has been a lot of appreciation across Asia with just a few reservations expressed by some countries. The CPEC is the flag ship project of the Belt and Road (OBOR), a lynchpin of Chinese engagement with the world. In fact, the CPEC is no doubt a Chinese leap forward to Pakistan exclusively; it is an inter-regional connectivity linking Pakistan with Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Gulf.
The constructive engagement is that the Chinese dream for peace and development in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The OBOR is the catalyst for change, especially to weed out global terrorism- Afghanistan will be an integral part. The CPEC will also lift Kabul’s fortune as told by the out-going Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Janan Mosazai, in a public gathering in January at Islamabad. Development is the prescription for poverty and terrorism.
Internally in Pakistan, there was some uproar when a deliberate misperception was created. But largely the CPEC remained as the most vibrant mega-national project aimed at transforming the country’s economy.
The CPEC perception has injected a new blood to Pakistan’s economy and is showing a positive outlook. The Japan’s External Trade organization (JETRO) reports that Pakistan is the second most lucrative country for Japanese companies to make profit in the world. The transparency International (TI) report shows that Pakistan is much ahead of other Asian countries in its fight against business and administrative corruption. This is good news for the CPEC’s planners, investors, and companies.
The external environment also has abruptly changed in favour the CPEC. The United States did not oppose it. The Indian media has been writing in favour of seizing the opportunity offered by China to a large number of Asian, African, and European countries. Japan is in limbo, where Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and almost the entire Europe countries expressed deep interest to make the CPEC a success.
The British Department for International Development (DFID), for instance, even offered US$ 122 million grant for the completion the Hassanabdal-Havelian Expressway (E-35) going to Kashgar in western China and the country has been co-financing an aid package of US$ 327 million with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the same project.
After President Xi visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran in January, they countries expressed their keen desire to the part of the Belt and Road policy to enhance interconnectivity and trade across Asia, Africa, and onward to Europe. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud while meeting President Xi said that Saudi Arabia will jointly pursue the Belt and Road iniative. The two-way trade between the two countries was recorded as high as US$ 69 billion in 2014.
Iran has signed the Belt and Road agreement with China as sanctions have just lifted on Iran after a decade of imposition. China has already pledged US$ 2.5 billion for the completion of the gas pipeline with Pakistan (IP).With the signing of the Belt and Road agreement both countries are likely to boost bilateral trade to the tune of over US$ 600 billion.
The Beijing-based Global Times wrote that ‘Iran is an important outpost in the China-proposed “One Belt, One Road” initiative and also a key partner to promote the initiative’. Trade between the two countries was recorded as high as US$ 96 billion in 2013.
In short, with such a huge trade prospects, the CPEC will be an integral to act as catalyst for economic change in overall Asian economic landscape. In the long run, the CPEC under the OBOR will usher in an era of Asian regional prosperity. The CPEC will lead Pakistan to a great economic power status through improved regional connectivity and enhanced cooperation.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.