CPEC: PM Imran’s China visit yields in Social Expansion of the Corridor

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Col ® Muhammad Hanif

Prime Minister Imran Khan,along with five Ministers visited China from 1-5 November 2018. During the visit, after receiving a rousing welcome at the Great Hall of the People, Imran Khan met President of China, Mr.Xi Jinping, held delegation level talks with the Chinese Prime Minister, Mr.Li Keqiang, and met Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and Wang Qishan, Vice President of China respectively. During the visit,PM Imran Khan also delivered a speech at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. Besides Beijing, Imran Khan also visited Shanghai and attended/addressed the First China International Import Expo as a Special Guest.

As the Joint Statement issued, published in The News dated 4 November 2018 reflects, the visit was highly successful. While both the sides decided to take Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership to further heights, they also signed 15 important agreements, and China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Mr. Kong stated “ in response to the current economic and fiscal difficulties, which Pakistan faces at the moment, China will provide help and assistance within the realm of its capability”.

Also, as published in the Times of India dated 4 November 2018, China accepted the demand of Pakistan’s Imran Khan government to expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to include social development programmeswith a focus on socio-economic development, job creation and livelihood and accelerating cooperation in industrial development, industrial parks and agriculture. Both sides announced the setting up of a working group on socio-economic development as well, to assist with livelihood projects in Pakistan.

With a view to remain focused on the CPEC, the leaders of both the countriesalso decided to discuss the CPEC-related issues as part of the China-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, political consultations, and JCC. Recognizing that the Gwadar Port was the central pillar of the CPEC and important node of the inter- regional connectivity it was decided to speed up progress on the Port and its auxiliary projects.

As has been decided by the Pakistani and Chinese leaders together, the social expansion of the CPEC comprises fiveareas, namely, socio-economic development, job creation, livelihood, industrial development and agricultural modernization. By focusing on these areas in relation to the CPEC means to address poverty as well as improve the standard of living of the Pakistani people by handling socio-economic, industrial, agriculture and human resource development with the help of China and by prioritizing the CPEC projects rather than waiting for the CPEC-related benefits after its full completion that is supposed to take place by the Year 2030.

The industrial development will be achieved by the development of the special industrial zones planned astride the CPEC, on a priority basis. In the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Pakistani, Chinese and other foreign investors will be invited to set up their industries, but before that China and Pakistan will carry out infrastructure development in the areas selected for the SEZs as part of the CPEC. That is why it has been decided to complete that infrastructure on a priority basis. With the development of the special economic zones, not only industrial development will be enhanced with the introduction of modern technology, while it will create lots of jobs with better pay structure for Pakistani young people, that will create more livelihood, Pakistan will be able to enhance the export of the industrial products which will earn the foreign exchange.

Along with the development of the SEZs, emphasis will also be laid on the development of the Agriculture with the assistance of China by employing modern machinery, modern methods of enhancing production and by adopting modern means of irrigation for water conservation.While modern technology will help in increasing the crop yields and in producing quality products for exports, it will also increase the income of  the Pakistan farmers and the labour force engaged in the agriculture production. Whereasthe export of agricultural products will help Pakistan increase its exports, it will also raise the standard of living of the Pakistanis working in the field of agriculture.

Another important area to increase livelihood is to improve human resource development with the assistance of China. By doing so,  whereas it will help Pakistanis to get CPEC related jobs, it will create a trained workforce to be sent to the foreign countries to get better jobs and earn better to be sent to Pakistan as a foreign exchange and also to increase livelihood for the Pakistani people. Giving priority to the development of industry, agriculture and human resource will greatly help in improving socio-economic development in Pakistanas well, by increasing the income of the people and also their standard of living. Thus the social expansion of the CPEC is expected to serve the welfare of the people of Pakistan on a priority basis.

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