CPEC & National Security and Regional interconnectedness | By Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


CPEC & National Security and Regional interconnectedness

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been sailing through all “odds” to become the “economic” future of Pakistan and “ray” of hope for greater regional connectivity.

It “swayed” all conspiracies by spreading a message of regional cooperation for achieving immense socio-economic prosperity.

It dominated over “dissemination” of all propaganda by “stimulating” senses of coordination and collaboration to eradicate poverty, pandemic and hegemonic predominance.

Thus it has drastically changed the outdated concept of national security rapped with perilous cold wards and geopolitics.

Aims, objectives, utilities, scope and composition of the CPEC have been based on the rise and consolidation of “geo-economy” and regional interdependence since its inception.

Rise to smarter economy, green energies, hydrogenation, protection of bio-diversity and climate change have been salient features of the CPEC.

It has been dealing and promoting ample opportunities of poverty eradication, new job generation, social development, health diplomacy, balanced economic growth and sensible industrialization in the country which has now actually redesigned dimensions of our national security “paradigm”.

The leadership of the country has already rightly projected the strategic importance of geo-economy which, in a way, is recognition of commercial diplomacy of the CPEC.

Ongoing “Suez Canal” blockade has once again highlighted the importance of blue economy and easy & smooth maritime trade propositions.

It carries more than 12 percent of global trade which is now at the mercy of geopolitics and nature.

It has also showcased the importance of geo-economy, alternative corridors and deep sea facilities around the globe.

In this context, Gwadar deep seaport under the flagship project of CPEC would provide an easy, smooth and shortest route for East-West connectivity in the days to come. Thus the strategic importance of CPEC is “sky-high”.

Meanwhile, Iran and China signed a 25 year strategic cooperation agreement as Beijing expands its trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

China-Iran Strategic Deal (CHISD) may be a paradigm shift in the region as well international power politics.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured that their bilateral relations would not be affected by the current situation and would be permanent and strategic.

It upheld the importance of “dialogue”, “diplomacy” and “development” which is primarily based on mutual respect and peace.

It offered Iran $400 billion Chinese investment over the next 25 years in return for selling China a large proportion of the oil it produces over the same period at a discounted rate.

It would further enhance Chinese presence in Iranian domestic banking system, telecommunications sector, shipments/ports, railways and dozens of associated projects.

According to the deal projects include airports, high-speed railways and subways. Furthermore China would develop free-trade zones in Maku and Abadan.

It proposes China to build the infrastructure for a 5G telecommunications network, to offer the new Chinese Global Positioning System, Beidou, and to help Iranian authorities assert greater control over what circulates in cyberspace.

In the near past, various countries of West Asia namely Iran and Afghanistan and the Central Asian States (CIS) Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan showed keen interest to join the CPEC.

In this connection, various interactive and meaningful spells of negotiations/meetings have been held in Islamabad.

The assertive stance of Iranian Ambassador Dr. Syed Muhammad Hussaini and consequent visit to Pakistan of Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, accompanied by a big business delegation, and meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan and the COAS General Qamar Bajwa reaffirmed Iranian government’s desire to join the CPEC which indicated westward expansion of this mega project.

For the further strengthening of bilateral trade & commerce, foreign direct investment, joint ventures and, above all, people-to-people contacts, the Iranian Foreign Minister, desired to open various new border openings between the two countries.

In the near past, another border opening at Rimdahn (Gwadar) has been made which is situated just 130km away from Chabahar Sea Port (CSP) which may be a connecting hub between CSP and Gwadar Sea Port (GSP) in the days to come.

Hopefully, it will further enhance the inflow of petroleum products, fruit, vegetables and construction material trade in the days to come.

Iranian side also requested for another border opening at Pishin-Quetta which is now under consideration.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan H.E. Syed Muhammad Hussaini once again reaffirmed his government’s desire to become part of the CPEC.

While delivering a key-note speech in the CGSS-sponsored international webinar, the Iranian Ambassador briefed about the opening of Iran-Afghanistan Railway project which has further enhanced their connectivity and inflow of trade and commerce.

It is their first shared railway network. The CPEC ML-I Rail project will also be connected with Afghanistan in the future, so the importance of the CPEC has further increased manifolds.

The said train route so far links the Iranian city of Khaf with the Afghan town of Rozanak about 150 kilometres away but is scheduled to be expanded to reach Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city.

On the other hand, for the further strengthening of regional connectivity, the governments of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan have decided to revive a transnational rail service linking Istanbul, Tehran and Islamabad in 2021 which has now been reactivated.

The ITI transnational railroad is expected to enhance connectivity with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by providing a rail connection between China and Turkey.

CPEC is the flagship mega-project of the BRI.

Interestingly, during his annual speech, the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, singled out enhanced ties with South Asia, and pointing out that “today we have taken the first practical steps to implement the project for the construction of the Trans-Afghan transport corridor, which will connect Central Asia with the Indian Ocean.

Its implementation will serve to ensure stability and sustainable economic development throughout the region.

To materialize the dream of greater regional connectivity, peace and harmony, the government of Pakistan signed a joint request letter seeking a $4.8 billion loan from international financial institutions for a mega rail project to connect Pakistan with Uzbekistan via Afghanistan and later to other Central Asian States.

The said railway joint project has already been approved by the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

It is hoped that the project will help improve regional trade and connectivity through Afghanistan to the Central Asia Republics.

Interesting but meaningful geopolitical changes in terms of Pak-India peaceful rapprochement, peace dialogue among different stakeholders of Afghanistan, shifting of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy towards reunion with South Asia mainly Pakistan and last but not the least, China-Iran Strategic Agreement all uphold strategic importance of the CPEC being a flagship project of the BRI for greater regional connectivity.

Thus CPEC holds the key to Pakistan’s future, socio-economic prosperity and greater regional connectivity in the future.