Aerial Corridor to CPEC: A Revival of Historical Linkages

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Dr Muhammad Khan

An analytical review of the contemporary international literature on Pakistan-China relationship would reveal that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the only binding factor between these two neighbouring states. Indeed, it is a wrong assertion; the relationship between people of these two countries is centuries old. Though Pakistan came into being in 1947, nevertheless, the people of this area enjoyed an exceptional relationship with Chinese people for centuries. These historical relationship spread over to areas like cultural homogeneity, educational exchanges, trade and commerce and even religious fervour of Buddhism.

For centuries, the Pakistani city of Taxila has been the hub of Buddhism. “From the ancient Neolithic tumulus of Saraikala to the ramparts of Sirkap (2nd century B.C.) and the city of Sirsukh (1st century A.D.), Taxila illustrates the different stages in the development of a city on the Indus that was alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia and which, from the 5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D., was an important Buddhist centre of learning.” Thousands of Chinese scholars sought their higher education from ancient university in Taxila.

The geopolitics of Pakistan was a junction point between ancient China and Western world. In fact, it remained so, in the contemporary time. In a way, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a revival of the centuries-old relationship between Pakistan and China. This has been the shortest and safest route between China and Europe including the resource-rich Arab world and African Continent. Once President Xi Jinping envisioned the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) he, indeed, declared CPEC as the founding corridor of all other BRI projects. His forethought of reviving this route; as an ancient Chines passageway and the guaranteed ground route; connecting China with the West has strategic vision. Indeed, Mr Xi must have consulted and synthesized ancient literature and must have studied the practicability of revitalising the ancient route in this highly globalized world. Indeed, CPEC and larger BRI are the steps taken by China to boost the infrastructure, essentially needed for shrinking the time and space; the essence of globalization.

This is not all about the linkages between Pakistan and China, there are binding factors, which can be quoted and recapped from the recent history of both states. Upon establishment of modern China with Communist philosophy, the Capitalist West started viewing it as a future threat. Besides, Peoples Public of China had its closer and stronger linkages with (former) Soviet Union; an ideological homogeneity. Instead of PRC (mainland), Taiwan (Republic of China) was more promoted by the Capitalist West. With a disconnection (fenced) from rest of the world (West in particular), it was very challenging for the PRC to have at least essential trade and commerce at regional and global levels.

At this trying time of China, Pakistan helped China and provided it with needed Air Corridor from the Pakistani geopolitics. For over a decade, Pakistan provided this facility of Aerial Corridor to China. A former Pakistani diplomat, late Akram Zaki, once pointed out that the CPEC is indeed an extension of aerial corridor, Pakistan provided to China at the most critical time of Chinese history. Most of the top leadership of China including former President Hu Jintao and President Xi Jinping have publically acknowledged the provision of aerial corridor to China by Pakistan and other diplomatic, political and strategic support to China from late 1950s to mid-1970s. President Hu Jintao has the distinction of raising the international stature of China at political and strategic levels. He handed over the reign of China to President Xi Jinping in 2013 at a take-off time, after remaining General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President for ten years.

Although, CPEC is a well-conceived strategic idea of China under President Xi, nevertheless, it is the need of Pakistan for making the best usage of its geopolitics and for boosting of its economic activities. After all Pakistan should exploit its geographically pivotal position for its advantage. CPEC will provide an infrastructure and linkage for the exploration and exploitation of its enormous resources all the resource-rich areas of Pakistan, still untapped. Provided, Pakistan has really worked out a long-term strategy for the best of CPEC, it will lead to substantial economic development, employment opportunities, establishment of industrial estates around the corridor, reduction in urbanization of major cities and raising the living standards of the masses. Indeed, these are grey areas, facing the state and society of Pakistan.

Through a meticulous planning and a foresight, if these grey areas are addressed aptly, the bulk of current domestic issues of Pakistan would be addressed automatically. Let’s challenge the rival forces and make best use of CPEC at all levels: economic, political and strategic with optimism, explicit innovation and futuristic vision. It is a great opportunity for China to establish an all-weather linkage with West Asia, Africa and Europe through shortest possible route. Besides, it is an opportunity for Pakistan to revive and strengthen its linkages with China: A revival of Air Corridor to Land Corridor (CPEC).

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