Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a mega project of about $ 52 billion that will connect Kashgar City of China with the Gawadar Port of Pakistan, about 2500 Km long distance. The project comprises construction of roads, railways, special industrial zones, power plants, Gawadar airport and laying of optical fibre from Kashgar to Rawalpindi. The work on the project has already started. Once completed, the project will not only be beneficial for Pakistan, China and South Asia, it will serve as a catalyst for connecting various regions with South Asia, such as; Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East, Eurasia, Europe and North Africa.
Firstly, CPEC will connect China and Pakistan and both countries’ trade will multiply. Pakistan’s energy shortage will be met and its industry will flourish with the availability of electricity and special industrial zones. Through CPEC Pakistan will be able have trade with China, Central Asia and Russia. Likewise, using CPEC China’s surplus goods will reach other world markets in a much shorter timeframe than going through all the way using maritime routes and passing through the Malacca Straits. India joins it, then the CPEC will connect South Asian countries to trade with each other and also with China and Central Asia.
The CPEC will act as a catalyst for connecting China and South Asia to Central Asia, Eurasia, West Asia and vice versa. Through CPEC Pakistanwill be able to develop its relations not only with South Asian countries but also with many countries of Central Asia, Russia, West Asia, Middle East, using economic diplomacy and Pakistan’s trade with those countries will also flourish. Along with enhanced Pakistan’s connectivity with many countries in various regions for economic gains it will also contribute in enhancing Pakistan’s foreign relations and international image and prestige. Ultimately, Pakistan will become a trading hub for the region as well as for extra regional trade and transit.
CPEC will connect Central Asia with South Asia and other regions, providing a land route for trade and travelling. In fact, using the CPEC and Gawadar port many countries will be able to trade with Central Asian Republics (CARs) and CARs will also be able to open up with the outer world. This opportunity is going to give many economic benefits such trade expansion, attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI). This great opportunity will greatly facilitate CARs’ economic development. CPEC will also enable Afghanistan to act as a hub of trade for CARs, South Asia and other extra-regional countries’ trade with each other. This will greatly facilitate the economic uplift of the Afghan people and development of Afghanistan’s war ravaged economy. But all these advantages of the CPEC-related connectivity will only come to Afghanistan, CARs, South Asia and other countries if there is early peace in Afghanistan. This needs to be understood by the Afghan Government and the Afghan people, other regional and extra-regional countries. Therefore, for their own benefit it is important that all concerned countries and Afghanistan should work for peace in Afghanistan very sincerely and on an urgent basis.
CPEC connectivity will give huge benefits to China and Russia for trade and energy, transportation and exploitation of investment opportunities in the regional countries. To China CPEC provides a secure and shortest possible route for imports of oil and gas as well. Using CPEC China will be able to reach many Asian markets for export of its surplus products being produced through its vast industrial capacity. The CPEC would reduce the distance to Kashgar to only 3000 km as compared with a route through Mallaca Straits as that route is nearly 12000 km long. To Russia also the CPEC will provide many advantages in the field of trade using Gawadar sea port. It was a long desire of Russia to reach the warm waters for enjoying trade facility throughout the year since its own ports remain almost frozen for about six months in a year due to a very cold and snow bound weather.In fact, Russia has already asked Pakistan that it wants to join the CPEC and Pakistan has accepted Russia’s request. But again, to draw an optimum advantage out of CPEC, China and Russia would also need to work for an early peace in Afghanistan. It has been observed that China and Russia are already working for facilitating the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
The CPEC will also be used by the Gulf Countries and other countries of the Middle East, North African countries, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries for trade with Central Asia, South Asia, China and Russia and vice versa. This would yield a great advantage to all these countries. The CPEC also connect Central Asia, China and South Asia with EU countries through West Asia. So CPEC is a win-win project for many regions, rather whole the world. Therefore, it is very important that all countries cooperate for an early completion of the CPEC and for an early peace in Afghanistan.