Prof Zamir Ahmed Awan
We all know and witness over the years that Pakistan and China enjoy excellent relations and an exemplary friendship. The roots of this friendship go back to the time when ancient Chinese traders used to travel to Europe through areas which now form part of Pakistan. The route taken was known as the Silk Route. Around two thousand years ago, famous Chinese monks like “Fa Xian” and “Xuan Zang” travelled to Peshawar, Swat, Taxila etc for learning Buddhism. General Geng Biao (late), during his tenure as the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan in 1956-59, realized the importance of connecting China and Pakistan by road. He convinced the leadership of that time, Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou En Lai, for the construction of Karakoram Highway which would connect China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan. It is worth mentioning that President Xi, acknowledges General Geng Biao as his mentor.
President Xi came into power in 2013 and launched a mega initiative, we all know it as the “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) or the “Belt and Road Initiative”; it is a major development plan for China and its future. Furthermore, it is a message of peace, harmony and prosperity for the entire region. Today 69 countries have joined OBOR. There are six economic corridors planned under it and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of them. Since it is the first one, it is declared as the flagship project. Both China and Pakistan highly prioritize it and are occupied in making it a success so it can stand as a role model for the following 5 economic corridors.
Under the vast CPEC umbrella, China is assisting Pakistan to overcome its electricity shortfall and it has been resolved to a major extent. Load-shedding of several hours has been reduced to 2 hours only. The power supply will meet its demand in the upcoming couple of years as currently operative power projects reach their completion.
Pakistan was facing difficulty due to outdated infrastructure. The existing Railway system was built by the British way before Pakistan had earned independence. At the time, the road network was lacking as well. China is assisting Pakistan with this by developing multiple motorways and highways throughout the country. Most of the road network is near completion. ML-1, the railway system will be up-graded within the next couple of years to meet the modern day needs.
In addition, an optical fibre link is being laid down between China and Pakistan. It will improve internet coverage, enhance internet speed and boost the struggling IT industry of Pakistan. Attention is being paid to Thar Coal. Oil and Gas pipelines are also under construction to meet the energy needs.
Moreover, Gwadar Port is being developed and will soon be a hub for the entire surrounding region’s commercial activities. Gwadar is located at the entrance of the Gulf – Arabian Peninsula and acts as a major energy trade route between the Middle-East and the rest of world.
However, we are at the very initial stage of CPEC and are working on laying a strong foundation for its success. The benefits of CPEC in essence will be vividly realized with the launch of the planned Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Pakistan is blessed with many natural resources (Mineral and Mining) a rich agriculture. Most of our agricultural produce is used in an un-processed form since our agriculture process is not yet mechanized; this includes food processing, cold-chain processing, post-harvest processing and preservation. Pakistan is rich with regards to minerals as well; however the mining industry is not efficient and automated enough to utilize this blessing. Although, precisely because of this, there exist huge investment opportunities for Chinese Entrepreneurs; value addition in various areas of the agriculture and mining sector is definitely a rewarding venture.
We believe in the Chinese “Win-Win” philosophy and trust that any collaboration between Pakistan and China will be beneficial to both the nations. It is our sincere outlook that both countries work, develop and prosper together. We also play important role in regional security and stability too.
Pakistan is facing many challenges and threats. With the launch of CPEC, some western nations have become harsh and unwelcoming towards it. Therefore, the amount of obstacles we have to overcome has risen. The western nations seem to be favouring India over Pakistan. The USA is supplying latest hi-tech weapons and financial assistance to India. Australia and France have provided the Indian Navy free access to their naval bases in the region. The western nations have encouraged and facilitated India to enter into Afghanistan. India has established 17 consulates inside Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. It has allocated a budget of USD 500 to its notorious Intelligence Agency “RAW” to hinder CPEC. The west is using the United Nations and other international organizations to isolate and harm Pakistan.
Trust, Pakistan and China will overcome all such challenges and threats. We will work more closely with each other to make CPEC a success story and role model.
Long Live Pak-China friendship. Zhong-Ba You Yi Was Sui.