China-Pakistan economic cooperation | By Ali Jawad Raza


China-Pakistan economic cooperation

MAY 21, 2022 marked the 71st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan.

For a long time, under the careful cultivation of successive leaders and people from all walks of life, friendship between China and Pakistan is like a thriving tree with deep roots.

China-Pakistan friendship is becoming deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples.

In Pakistan, there is an Urdu poem: “The beautiful image of a friend is in the mirror of my heart, and if you bow down, you can see it.

” When President Xi Jinping came to Pakistan for his first visit in April 2015 he used this Urdu poem to describe China-Pakistan friendship.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a benchmark project of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

It starts from Kashgar in Xinjiang in the north and Gwadar Port in Pakistan in the south.

It is a trade corridor including roads, railways, oil & gas pipelines and communications and optical cables.

With an investment scale of multibillion dollars, the whole project is the “flagship project” in the “Belt and Road’ construction plan.

The project runs through several provinces in Pakistan, from Gwadar, Balochistan, through Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan eventually to the Khunjerab Pass and to China.

CPEC is conducive to promoting employment and its development outcomes will benefit the grassroots in Pakistan.

The road infrastructure project is expected to create 51,000 jobs, more than 94 percent of which will be offered to local Pakistanis.

All China-Pakistan joint ventures will create 1.2 million jobs, more than 33 percent of which will only be open to Pakistanis.

From 2015 to 2030, CPEC will create a total of 2.3 million jobs, bringing more than 2.5% of annual growth to Pakistan’s GDP.

At present, the CPEC has carried out many projects, including roads, railways, sea ports, oil and gas pipelines, optical fiber, special economic zones cross-border trade cooperation centers and signing free trade agreements.

The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013.

It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

After coming to power, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif pledged to take the US$ 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) forward with a new vigour, vitality and in a rejuvenated manner, ensuring multifaceted development of the flagship project of China’s ambitious BRI initiative.

On his first day in office as Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif met the Chinese Acting Ambassador Charge d’Affaires Pang Chunxue and made it clear that Pakistan considered China as closest friend and strongest partner.

“We will take the CPEC forward with new vigour, with new vitality and in a rejuvenated manner,” he said.

The first phase of the CPEC was completed in Nawaz Sharif’s tenure and the completion of the second phase will go to the credit of Shehbaz Sharif.

Under CPEC, so far nine projects have been completed while 13 ongoing projects have created over 70,000 direct jobs another 450,000 direct jobs could be generated in the next 4 to 5 years.

The future of CPEC now lies in the commencement of Special Economic Zones and Gwadar Free Trade Zone.

Moreover, the institutional mechanism of CPEC is still intact and JCC meetings are held on a regular basis despite the worries of a global pandemic that has taken the world into its grip.

Pakistani academia now has to devise effective human resource strategies to tackle the issue of much needed technical labor force.

Socioeconomic cooperation is also getting a boost with the passage of time. Moreover, strategies need to be made to attract FDI in prioritized special economic zones.

Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan, covering 44% of Pakistan’s land area, with abundant mineral and natural resources, innate conditions for developing agriculture, fishery, livestock, dairy industries, and 750 km coastline and deep water sea port.

With the development of Gwadar FFTA and special economic zones, Balochistan is becoming more attractive to investors.

The Baloch and Sindh regions represented by Gwadar Port are the key construction areas of the CPEC, but there are also multiple security threats to the CPEC in the region, among which outlawed groups and forces backed by the external hands are the most direct security threat.

Since 2020, insurgency in Sindh and Balochistan has been posing a challenge to the authorities however, the Shehbaz Sharif government is tackling this challenge with an iron hand.

Because of the federal government’s strict policy against the banned outlawed groups and consistently monitoring the security situation in the region, the situation now is returning to normalcy.

— The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad.


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