CPEC—an element of national power | By Dr Shoaib Baloch

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CPEC—an element of national power

ALMOST every state aspires to bolster its national power. All available assets are employed to expand the national power base and project power in global politics. Along with multiple power elements, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor adds a new pivotal dimension to Pakistan’s national power. CPEC equips Pakistan with a credible leverage at external front, enhancing its manoeuvring capability in regional and global politics.

Economic diplomacy: CPEC allows Pakistan to make economic diplomacy as the central plank of its foreign policy approach. It greatly facilitates the country to build economic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond. In retrospect, geopolitics often guided foreign policy of the country that lowered the vitality of economic statecraft. But today CPEC gives an economic tool for diplomacy and engagement with the world for shared prosperity and mutual gain.

Regional connectivity: Pakistan’s new policy shift essentially revolves around geo-economic pivot. As regional connectivity is the focal point of the country’s new policy paradigm, CPEC offers a feasible avenue for connectivity. The Central Asian Republics are landlocked countries with rich energy resources, so stability in Afghanistan will increase their appetite for accessing the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It can increase Pakistan’s bargaining power with these countries for energy security.

Foreign Direct Investment: CPEC acts as a magnet for FDI. It lures potential investors and provides a propitious destiny for investment in multiple sectors, particularly science and technology, fisheries, agriculture, industry, energy and Exclusive Economic zones (EEZs). Balochistan’s colossal landmass provides opportunities for developing industrial zones, especially for processing sea, agriculture and livestock products through food processing technology.

Sustainable Development Goals: The socio-economic dividends of CPEC will permit the country to meet the SDGs. Increasing economic activities under CPEC will create employment opportunities, alleviate poverty, reduce socio-economic disparity, promote women participation in economic practices and decrease hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan may engage with the UN and regional countries for meeting the targets of SDGs through regional economic integration with the help of CPEC.

Economic growth: CPEC will rescue Pakistan’s sagging economy. It galvanizes economic activities, manufacturing industry, revenue generation, and employment opportunities, which can help resolve the chronic balance-of-payment crisis, and current/fiscal account deficit. CPEC will also maximize Balochistan’s economic contribution to the national economy. Along with natural resources, the province’s local products such as date, wheat, fruits, vegetables, fisheries and livestock will supplement the economic prospects.

Strategic autonomy: Competing great power interests have pushed the world on the brink of a new cold war. Pakistan’s delicate balancing act appears to be less feasible in a changing world. However, Pakistan’s new security policy (2022-2026) holds that the country will keep distance from camp politics. But lack of substantial national leverage would be irksome to engage with great powers. In this context, CPEC saves Pakistan’s skin to maintain its strategic autonomy in this evolving new cold war politics. Economic engagement in lieu of geopolitical realignment will be the new policy approach towards great powers under CPEC.

Confidence Building Measures: Even though it may strike many people as preposterous prognostication, CPEC would assist in economic confidence building measure (CBM) by increasing interaction between India and Pakistan which may alter their zero-sum strategic behaviour and overcome the trust deficit. Growing energy demand in India will bring a change, if not a shift, in its policy towards Pakistan because CPEC makes it possible for India to guzzle energy from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. It thus paves the way for dialogue over Kashmir quagmire and other strategic issues like nuclear arms.

Soft power: terrorism has abysmally tarnished Pakistan’s soft image. CPEC can refurbish the country’s image through connecting infrastructural dots and integrating regional economies with buoyant anticipation of shared prosperity. Pakistan’s economic driven policy not only generates revenue, but it will also snowball the country’s soft power.

Tourism: CPEC will also displace terrorism with tourism. Although Balochistan has different ecological tourist sites, the beauty and tranquillity of the province’s coastal belt offers a paradise to local as well as foreign explorers. Local foods like date and milk, ‘Balochi sajji’, sea products and many other traditional foods can relish people from different areas. It can significantly uplift the local economy and palliate the depravity of people.

Naval power: the strategic location of CPEC at the heart of the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and other strategic choke points greatly facilitates Pakistan to build its naval power and protect regional economic interests. It makes Pakistan a formidable naval power to play a key role in maritime politics.

Energy security: energy insecurity has retarded Pakistan’s industrial growth. Industries have died out because of energy shortage. As an energy corridor, CPEC will generously quench the energy thirst and boost up industrialization in the country.

Tailpiece: Perhaps if CPEC is not manna from heaven to fix all the problems of Pakistan, it can stimulate socioeconomic development. But local grievances, dearth of transparency and red tapism will dilute the salience of the corridor. Unless local people are taken into confidence for the development of the corridor, CPEC will remain just a good idea.

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