Regional linkages and shared prosperity

Courtesy: Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) arguably is the pivot of the Chinese One Road One Belt initiative, which envisages not only the revival of the centuries’ old Silk Road (for trade and cultural interaction) but also a participatory process of sharing the fruits of economic development made possible by regional and global linkages that it desires to orchestrate. It is really a matter of great satisfaction that due to an abiding commitment both by Pakistan and China to see this project implemented within the envisaged time frame and their priority for the Early Harvesting Projects (EHP), a number of first phase initiatives costing $18 billion likely to be completed by 2018 are already under execution. Another set of ventures with an accumulated cost of $17 billion is under different stages of approval. CPEC involving an investment of $46 billion covers wide-ranging areas including energy, roads, railways, ports, optic fiber, oil and gas pipelines and industrial parks among others.

In view of the completion of the EHP projects by 2018 relating to energy and road connectivity, the ministry of planning and development and reforms organised a two-day CPEC Summit and Expo in Islamabad aimed at establishing contacts between private sector enterprises of the two countries in order to get them ready for the implementation of the second phase projects. More than 140 delegates from China participated, while CEOs of different industrial concerns in Pakistan also were there to interact with their counterparts from China.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the inaugural session of the CPEC Summit rightly remarked that CPEC was a new concept of diplomacy based on shared goals of prosperity for Pakistan and the region and a project to eliminate poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. It is aimed to create connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia with infinite economic benefits to all the nations of the region.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong speaking on the occasion said there was an even brighter future of friendship between the two countries, and the full implementation of CPEC projects was underway. On completion these projects would create tens of thousands of jobs in Pakistan besides ensuring better health and education facilities. Expressing confidence that the venture would prove to be a win-win situation for both the countries he emphasised the need for security of the projects and the Chinese workers engaged in implementing them.
That was an obvious reference to the attempts being made to sabotage CPEC through acts of terrorism to which the prime minister and COAS have also been alluding, particularly in the backdrop of the recent terrorist attack in Quetta, and some terrorist incidents at Gawadar and its vicinity. There is credible evidence of Indian sponsorship of these terrorist acts as confirmed by the arrest of Kalbushan Yadav earlier this year. Being mindful of threats to CPEC a special security division has been raised by Pakistan to ensure security of the CPEC projects and the Chinese workers.
Indian prime minister’s reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech not only confirms the Indian meddling in Balochistan with a view to sabotage CPEC but is also viewed with concern by Pakistan and China that are committed to ensure its implementation at any cost. Reportedly, Hu Shisheng, Director of the Institute of South and South East Asian Institute of Contemporary International Relations, showing his concern about these developments said that China would have to get involved if any Indian plot disrupts the $45 billion CPEC in restive Balochistan. The institute is one of the most powerful think tanks of China, affiliated with the ministry of state security. Shisheng said, “The latest concern for China is Prime Minister Modi’s speech from the Red Fort in which he referred to the issues like Kashmir and Balochistan. China fears India may use anti-government elements in Balochistan where Beijing is building $46 billion CPEC — a key to the success of its ambitious One Road One Belt.
China is already wary of India’s growing ties with the US, and her changed attitude on the disputed South China Sea. Indian naval build-up in the Indian Ocean is also worrying for China as well as Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan might have to strengthen its own Navy to ward off the lurking dangers. It is noteworthy that China had also invited India to become part of the One Road and One Belt initiative, and made positive overtures to begin a new era of cooperative relations between the two nations. The Chinese president during his visit to India before coming to Pakistan not only offered $20 billion Chinese investment in India but also emphasised the need for cooperative efforts for peace in the region. But unfortunately, Indians blinded by their innate desire to establish hegemony in the region, have aligned themselves with the US in not only thwarting Chinese burgeoning influence in the region and beyond dictated by the resurgence of China as an economic and military power but are also using this alliance against Pakistan. The signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement between the two that will allow them to use each other’s land, air and naval bases is decidedly a step in that direction.
The Indian leadership fails to perceive that this kind of belligerent posturing ultimately would not only scuttle the prospect of peace and security in the region but also undermine and harm Indian interests. A war-like state cannot exist for long. Pakistan is also intensely aware of the dangers of a confrontational path and the need for normalisation of relations between the two countries. It was out of this realisation that the government of Pakistan tried hard to re-start the process of negotiation with India to settle outstanding disputes between them, and make a new beginning casting off the past baggage. But unfortunately, the Indian government under Narendra Modi has spurned all these efforts and continues to pursue an aggressive course as far as China and Pakistan
are concerned.
Under the prevailing circumstances and till such time India realises its folly of treading a collision course with its neighbours, Pakistan and China would have to upgrade the defence cooperation between them to ensure peace and security in the region and making CPEC a vibrant reality.