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Historical perspective of CPEC

Around 1983 amid the so-called Afghan Mujahedeen movement, the United States during her engagement in Afghanistan wanted to develop the Gwadar deep seaport but dropped the idea once the then Soviet troops left Afghanistan and the idea became dormant. With the dismantling of the USSR and emergence of the newly independent Central Asian states, ideas to revise the old Silk routes came in fashion and for the first time the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University first proposed the new Silk routes under the Greater Central Asia Partnership doctrine connecting Central and South Asia. During Musharraf government, for the first time the idea of an economic corridor was discussed and the Chinese government expressed great interest. By that time the Department of State in the United States has almost given up on the plans of new Silk roads originating in Starr’s ideas. This was the moment, the government of China picked up under the rubric of New Silk Roads. This idea, which speculated for many years, gained power in May 2013 when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang discussed the construction of CPEC with Gwadar its core when he visited Pakistan and signed the milestone CPEC agreement at that time. The same year Pakistan’s Prime Minister visited China and signed eight agreements worth $18 billion that included building around 200 kilometers tunnels for the CPEC. The following year President of Pakistan visited China in February 2014 to clarify the Corridor plan. At that time, the Chinese banks and companies promised over $45.6 billion for energy and infrastructure projects along the corridor.

In April 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan. This was the second visit of a Chinese leader to Pakistan since the beginning of present century after Hu Jintao’s visit to Pakistan in 2006. Xi also wanted to visit Pakistan in 2014 during his South Asia trip to Maldives, Sri Lanka and India; however, the trip was postponed due to political problems in Pakistan. Later during his visit, 51 agreements were signed between China and Pakistan having a total worth of $46 billion which also included the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. By this time the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping extended the previous CPEC project to the broader OBOR initiative globalizing CPEC as a major part of the broader project. The originally intended $46 billion investment that China intended to invest in Pakistan under the CPEC has now been expanded to approximately 55 billion dollars. The amount exceeds all foreign direct investment Pakistan has received over the last several years and is considerably more than all the aid Pakistan has received from the US since 9/11.

The aim of the project is to connect China’s north-western region of Xinjiang to Gwadar port of Baluchistan. Because of this gigantic project CPEC, Pakistan is having a massive new network of roads, highways, railways, and pipelines. The roads are approximately 2700 kilometers distance from Gwadar to Kashgar. The motorway is also a part of this project, which will be about 1100 kilometers long stretching from Lahore to Karachi, in addition to the Karakorum Highway from Kashgar via Khunjerab Pass to Islamabad.

A train track between Peshawar and Karachi will also be built; the Karakorum Highway between Rawalpindi and Chinese border shall also be extended and constructed. The network of pipelines shall also be constructed which will be used to transport liquefied natural gas and oil from Iran and the Gulf countries. The CPEC is not only about the infrastructure of trains roads and pipeline it will also connect Europe and Central Asian countries with the region providing a higher level of development as well as cultural exchanges between China and Pakistan.

The work on the project has already begun. Pakistan has also emphasized that CPEC will produce the equal opportunities for all regions of Pakistan. The CPEC contains multi-sectoral projects such as energy, infrastructure, Gwadar and industry in the country. The CPEC will restore Pakistan’s economic growth of the early 1960s which led economists at the time to predict that the country would be one of the future leading economic powers in Asia.

CPEC has a high value for both countries China and Pakistan. Due to CPEC the connectivity will open up west China to the south and contribute to “One Belt One Road” initiative policy. The establishment of communication from Kashgar to Gawadar has been agreed to be completed by 2030. Chinese Government is trying to utilize the entire necessary supporting role to enabling the environment for the open economic and logistic system in the regional vision of CPEC. CPEC will not only benefit China and Pakistan but will also the surrounding countries. Pakistan will increase its economic growth through this projec. CPEC has great importance for both the countries. CPEC is envisioned as a corridor of peace, prosperity and development. Although the CPEC is facing a lot of challenges. It has significant potentials of promising future. The people of Pakistan were adversely affected in the past due to inadequate opportunities and lack of right decisions. CPEC will have a transformational impact on the state and the prosperity of Pakistan. The visit of President Xi in April 2015 and Chinese commitment of $46 billion plus for various projects of CPEC, sketched the world attention to the new development and growth of the economy, and this will be the real prosperity for both the countries and will promise future for the region and the world.