Saadia Saif Niazi,
The Chinese revolutionary idea of One Belt One Road (OBOR) has been originally derived from the traditional Silk Road and based on futuristic economic, cultural and political relationship among China’s neighbours. Now, it is an upgraded version that emphasizes the mega scale connectivity through vibrant corridors of road, rail and maritime. This forms vital portion of the Old Silk Road which was also political, social, economic and cultural connection among different civilizations of diverse regions.
The Chinese New Silk Road (NSR) initiative, with the name of OBOR is trying to refurbishing the traditional relations of Old Silk Road into the new narratives of pipelines, road, railway and maritime linkages like ports.
The combination of three Cs would be connectivity, not only between China and Pakistan but it would also connect the Central Asian Republics (CARs) with Pakistan in the same manner.
Right from its inception, Pakistan is facing a lot of challenges which have sapped its national strength than it ought to be. Major issues such as historical legacies of distrust from neighbours like Afghanistan and India, poor law and order situation, lack of good governance, political infighting, mounting energy needs, amplifying poverty etc. As the configuration and nature of the world is changing, Pakistan also is becoming responding to the landscape and altering its foreign policy through the CPEC mega project.
The commencement of twenty-first century along with the forces of globalization has created economic competition among states. The Chinese OBOR initiative is also a flip of this. It’s all due to China’s investment-friendly philosophy that the project like CPEC which is more than $50 billion would create connectivity from Kashghar to Gwadar, Pakistan, covering total area of 2,934 km and consists of railways, bridges and roads.
It came as the privileged bounty for Pakistan due to the latter’s geostrategic location and time tested Pak-China friendship. It is one corridor with multiple passages, comprises three Cs Connectivity, Corridor linkages and Cultural relationship.
The first C; “Connectivity” which is inclusive in nature, will connect the far parts of the world specifically of China and land locked CARs to the world markets via Pakistan (as shortest routes). The second C, “Corridor Linkages” will connect China and CARs, Pakistan with all sorts of linkage i.e. pipeline, road, railway and maritime linkages like ports. (Skills transfer should be an important part of this C). The third C is an important one, “Cultural relationship” among the different civilizations of diverse regions which would be able to make a strong bond of friendship and companionship.
CPEC is one of the major steps towards economic development of specifically China and Pakistan, but in future it will be a harbinger for economic uplift of several regions as it will connect Pakistan with the Middle Eastern region from south and in north it will connect the CARs. In future, it will also stand for the cause of regional competition. Yet, it is the only grand bilateral agreement between two states on the platform of OBOR, for the economic and social uplift of common citizens of both states.
The CPEC is massive as well as a lifetime multifaceted opportunity for Pakistan and would be a grand source of linkages, backward and forward linkages. If and when resulting in fruition, CPEC would help mitigate some of Pakistan’s principal problems: Gwadar deep sea port, economic, political and social uplift, lessening of energy scarcity and reducing unemployment. But Pakistan should take some practical measures in near future itself for connectivity with natural resources-rich CARs. In fact, CPEC is a great opportunity to be exploited by Pakistan on all fronts. Therefore, Pakistan must build an economic partnership, not a new source of dependency. If this is done, CPEC would be an epitome of Pak-China friendship and a real “game changer” for the region, ushering peace, progress and prosperity.
The writer is Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad, Pakistan