Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik
Pakistan is getting closer to the Russian Federation.A number of the former Soviet republics are interested in to develop strong economic ties with Pakistan. Within the Russian Federation,Tatarstan Republic is striving to develop ties with Pakistan in the larger Islamic prospective of Ummah (Islamic brotherhood). The visiting President Rustam Minnikhanov have been told by Pakistani leaders to join the CPEC. He visited Pakistan on 18-19 March.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is drawing the attention of this new drive. Belarus and Ukraine have also been showing interest to joining the multi-billion connectivity mega project – the CPEC on the one side and the One Belt One Road (OBOR) on the other side to become the part of the Eurasian Economic Land Bridge and the Central Asian Silk Road.
Pakistan is playing its diplomacy in attracting and translating the benefits of the revival of the Silk Road to the Russian Federation and its republics.The Russian Federation touches Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Artic Oceans. For the OBOR connectivity with these continents and regions is vital. Pakistan and China have been closely coordinating with each other to potential partners in the Russian Federation and the adjoining countries that could be useful in implementing the OBOR.
Both Pakistan and China have been working side by side. This kind of regional cooperation between them has never been seen before.Before they used this relationship for bilateral purpose. Now this relationship is transnational and multilateral. This set up a new trend in regional cooperation even transcendingthe Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Pakistan is a place where Chinese dream of the OBOR come true. Where China faces constraints such as in places in the Russian Federation,and the Central Asian reluctance to see China as a future hegemon after the Soviet Union, Pakistan has been using its diplomacy of providing access to the warm water sea access and port facilities to these landlocked republics. This is the beginning of the new world order under China and Russia by using Pakistan’s geo-strategic location to a great extent to all Central Asian states and republics in the Russian Federation.
This is a new forward looking policy of both China and Russia. Pakistan is the strongest pillar of this vision and at the center-stage, leaving behind India many times now, which is locked into a rigid approach toward the CPEC and OBOR and acting as an agent to the rise of Chinaunder the OBOR and its containment that would doom to be a failure.
The trilateral cooperation between China, Russia, and Pakistan minimizes the fears of Central Asian Republics as they do not see Pakistan as a power seeking hegemon but a middle power but foster regional economic cooperation and connectivity. Gwadar is a precious port for them for their future landlocked trade with the Gulf and Africa. Pakistan provides the outreach for them.
The Chabahar Port andthe Indio-Afghanstrategy toward the Central Asians’ connectivity has been rather counter-productive. Russia is reluctant toward the Chabahar connectivity as its sees the port from a different angle. Russia throws its weight behind the Gwadar Port as part of the large OBOR.
When it is says that the CPEC is a game-changer, it changes this geo-strategic game to a great extent by giving a new bonanza to republics that virtually did not gain after seeking independence in the 1990s. The OBOR and CPEC would accord them a real economic independence and place and well integrate them into the Chinese global economy and would provide new linkages for a peaceful co-existence.
The CPEC is not President Xi Jinping’s gift, boon, bonanza, and gold-mine to Pakistan but actually it is the larger part of the OBOR’s dream fulfillment to integrate Asia and Eurasian with Africa and Europe and bring together over 66 countries. This is common destiny involving all regional countries and stakeholders. The CPEC is not a puzzle or a mystery, and a project that just cannot fool such a large number of countries and their economies and their leaderships.