Dr Zafar N Jaspal
SINCE April 2015, China and Pakistan have been endeavouring to complete their joint China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The project is imperative for both states sustainable economic growth. Moreover, many Eurasian, Central and West Asian countries had also expressed their desire to partake in the project. The new membership, certainly, enhance the efficacy of the project. These developments accentuate that the project contains potential to revolutionize the regional commerce and positively contribute in the global trade.
CPEC project is having potential to transform the socio-economic landscape of Pakistan. The economic stability is imperative for political stability. The economic and political stability not only enhance the internal and external security of the state, but also germinate more opportunities for the prosperity of the citizens. Simultaneously, the CPEC would contribute constructively in the gradual peaceful rise of China. It would provide Chinese merchants shortest and secure route to West Asia. China will also get relief from the Malacca strait imbroglio. Neither the economic stability of Pakistan is acceptable to its regional competitors, nor China’s emergence as a global power is tolerable to many states. They are aware about the potential progressive outcome of the CPEC, which is a flagship project of President Xi Jinping “One-Road, One-Belt” vision. According to the estimates the ‘One-Road, One-Belt would establish close land and maritime connections between/among 60-plus countries across Asia and Europe. This connectivity definitely usher an era of prosperity for all the members of the project.
China’s pivot to West and Pakistan’s pivot to Central, West, and South Asia bothers regional and global aspiring hegemons. Consequently, they have been hatching regional and international conspiracies to sabotage the CPEC project. The fifth column is endlessly working in creating mistrust between the provincial and central governments in Pakistan. It is also negatively propagating that ‘Chinese would sell their cheap products in the Pakistani market, which may cause unemployment as well as destruction of local industries’. Indeed, cunning treacheries tricks of the fifth column are perilous for the CPEC project as well as hazardous for the economic prosperity of the people of Pakistan.
The American strategic community considers China as an emerging strategic competitor in the current geo-political landscape of the world. Hence, Asia-Pacific region has became a geostrategic priority for the Pentagon. Obama Administration’s pivot or rebalance strategy in Asia-Pacific was designed in 2011-12 to contain China. In this context, the CPEC reduces Chinese dependence on the South China Sea trade route. Subsequently, it would facilitate China to take firm actions while pursuing its strategic objectives in Asia-Pacific. Beijing has been developing powerful forces capable of deterring and defeating aggression of any state, including United States, in South China Sea. Since 2015, Chinese have been signaling that in South China Sea, they would not accept external actors interference. It seems determined to monitor the navigation operations in the South China Sea and continue developing bases on its Islands in the Sea.
The United States and its like-minded European nations also seemed frustrated with the CPEC. It was reported that almost all the central European states including United Kingdom, except Italy, would be distancing from a summit organized by Chinese President Xi Jinpingon a new Silk Roadscheduled in May 2017. The objective of the summit is to advertise the “One Belt, One Road” international credentials and make it less China-centric. The encouraging news is that Presidents of Russian Federation, Philippine, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Prime Ministers of Spain, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Poland along 28 other leaders will attendant the summit.
The Indian ruling elite’s hysterical attitude towards CPEC is alarming. It has been endeavouring to create internal discord in Pakistan. The Indians are cognizant to the fact that once CPEC is implemented; it would change the face of Balochistan. More precisely, the people of Balochistan would be its greatest beneficiary in the long term. Therefore, the Indian intelligence agency RAW crafted a network in Balochistan to obstruct the construction of CPEC infrastructure. Admittedly, China has maintained impressive bilateral working relations with India. Currently, it is having more than 80 billion US dollar bilateral trade volume with India. Despite having impressive economic relations with Beijing, Premier Modi government is determined to wreck CPEC project because it is in the interest of Pakistan. Moreover, the Indo-US strategic partnership has been receiving a positive response from both Modi Govt and Trump Administration.
On April 18, 2017, HR McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, visited New Delhi to assure Premier Modi to increase defence cooperation. He also promised to support India’s status as a major defense US partner and Indo-Pacific doctrine. The primary objective of the Americans is to build and encourage India to counter China’s increasing significance in Asia. To conclude, the CPEC project would be transforming the global geo-economic landscape. China and Pakistan would be the primary beneficiary of the project. Hence, Beijing and Islamabad ought to be prepared to intelligently encounter the anti-CPEC regional and global challenges.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.