AMID all controversies and debates on CPEC, this game changer project underwent major developments in year 2016, thus giving a befitting reply to the opponents and adversaries of Pakistan and CPEC venture. Year 2016 brought noteworthy evolvement in CPEC where people witnessed Pak-China friendship prospering and prompt expansion work being done under CPEC. Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong reiterated on many occasions that 16 early harvest projects, including several power stations, highways and projects related to Gwadar Port, are under construction and tens of thousands of new jobs have been created for local people.
China has gradually emerged as Pakistan’s major trading partner both in domain of exports and imports. Today, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become talk of the globe. CPEC, an essential component of One Belt, One Road proposed by China, is termed as a “Game Changer” for Pakistan. It is not only the pivot of China-Pakistan politico-economic relations, but holds similar promise for the region and beyond. While the project offers enormous opportunities to Pakistan such as economic prosperity, socio-economic uplift of general population and under developed areas, there are also few challenges attached to it.
Because of its wide-ranging scope, CPEC particularly has gained the attention of the West and the USA. For them this massive project by China under the concept of OBOR will make China an economic giant than already it is and will undermine the USA as superpower of the world. Under the OBOR, countries will be connected through infrastructure and telecommunication links. This will be accomplished by developing deep water ports, where possible and then building the infrastructure to link them through industrial zones and markets.
Apart from work going on establishment of Gwadar Port in Pakistan, Chinese intend to develop such ports in Piraeus (Greece), Zarubino (Russia), Djibouti and Mombasa (Africa) and Kyaukpyu (Myanmar). One of the OBOR projects likely to be completed early is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
In the second phase of upgrading the Karakorum Highway from Havelian to Thakot and the highway linking Pakistan’s largest cities of Karachi and Lahore. Both of the two highways have been smoothly implemented and for the former, the Abbottabad Tunnel construction project has begun and seen applicable progress. In terms of the energy field, China is helping boost green, low-carbon and sustainable energy development to address power shortage in Pakistan.
Economists say that due to the enhanced infrastructure such as roads and railways brought by the CPEC, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth should increase from around 4.7 percent last year to around 6 percent by 2019, and stay around the same level for 2020 in the southern Asian country. The CPEC itself for Pakistan at a bare minimum offers a significant opportunity for the country to address its supply side constraints such as weak foreign capital inflow. CPEC will attract foreign direct investment from both private and public sectors to help keep a balanced current account in Pakistan against a backdrop of rebounding oil prices. With the improved security situation, foreign investors are getting attracted to CPEC and positive economic indicators are gauging for boom in Pakistan.
There is a dire need to understand what this CPEC is going to bring in for Pakistan. No doubt concerns on such massive project are logical and need to be answered wisely and timely but one must not forget that if Pakistan is giving China a place for investment, in return this project will vastly benefit Pakistan with many opportunities in developmental sector including economic elevation, job opportunities, training of skilled labour, splendid infrastructure etc.
Therefore, in order to fully reap these benefits, the government of Pakistan will have to take account of challenges in order to make CPEC eloquent. Being taking it as a national responsibility, our mainstream political parties and their leadership and people of Pakistan should take lead role in proving that CPEC is a God gifted opportunity for prosperity and welfare of Pakistan and it will surely be a definite success in coming years.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think tank based in Islamabad.