Significanceof CPEC and Regional Connectivity |By Ms. Iram Zahid

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Significanceof CPEC and Regional Connectivity

CPEC is a flagship project of BRI. It is a strategic economic project to improve economic connectivity between Pakistan and China. The development of CPEC will be a gamechanger not only for Pakistan but for the entire region.

It is a voyage towards economic cooperation and regionalization at the international level. Pakistan wishes participation of other countries to be a part of this project which will improve the interests of regional countries in the project by easing the conflicts and rivalries.

Pakistan and China are not the only countries that get benefits from CPEC, it can also benefit Afghanistan, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics. It is a huge jump forward to integrate Central Asian landlocked states, Western China, and Iran.

It is also planned to connect the Arabian Peninsula and the continent of Africa by establishing a maritime bridge between Gwadar and ports all along the Western Indian coast. Its positive outcomes depend upon the cooperation among regional states strategically.

India claims that CPEC project impinges on its sovereignty which is flagrant propaganda, but India also fears that once CPEC becomes operational and accomplished, Pakistan will overcome its economic challenges.

Pakistan’s importance and influence will increase in the region and India will lose the support of Afghanistan and CAR.

All CPEC projects of phase 1 are completed and now CPEC Phase 2 has commenced. CPEC phase-1 supported Pakistan to develop infrastructure projects and address energy requirements.

The projects accomplished in Phase 1 have already produced dividends and substantial socio-economic advantages whereas CPEC Phase-2 involved multi-billion-dollar investments in Pakistan as most of the Chinese stakeholders had shown their joint interest in investment in Pakistan. Chinese companies are keen to promote their relationships between businesses and the manufacturing industries.

Chinese companies like Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, China Communication Construction Company, Zhejiang Seaport, and Huazhang Technology have also premeditated the investments in ‘Low Carbon Recycling Park,’ in the Gwadar free zone. Even the European/American companies have shown interest to invest in the projects of CPEC.

In a recent First Multi-model Logistics Conference 2022, President of Pakistan Arif Alvi stated that “The regional countries are eager to transport their goods to Gwadar port, and hence Pakistan needs to put in place a smooth supply-chain system at the earliest.” He also highlighted that Pakistan is required to modify its logistic infrastructure too rather than only developing human resources, to fully utilize the trading prospects offered by growing regional connectivity.

CPEC is an essential project for the future and economy of Pakistan. Regarding CPEC project Phase 2 in the agriculture sector, collaboration and cooperation is needed with China in germplasm resources, capacity building, agricultural product processing, fishery science and technology, aquaculture, aquatic product processing, and agriculture commerce for the agricultural progress under CPEC. Chinese companies are interested in assisting Pakistan to improve the seed quality and per acre yield on smart lines.

In-fact, Chinese companies are also concerned about growing soya beans in Pakistan. Due to the opening of various industrial zones under CPEC, the volume of trade will expand manifold. Although, in Pakistan, fresh steps were being taken for the rehabilitation of industries and industrial growth.

Pakistan and China are also working to increase telecom traffic with new optic fiber connections. In 2018, Special Communication Organization (SCO) initiated the Pak China OFC project which is the first-ever inland telecommunication linkage between two countries. OFC consists of multifaceted opportunities for future ICT enhancements in CPEC trade in Pakistan.

Pakistan and China are considering higher volumes of traffic from several international destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa through Optic Fiber Cables (OFC) implemented under CPEC. Uzbekistan has also shown concern in transporting its products through Pakistan, whereas Iran and Turkmenistan were concerned about the supply of natural gas.

As per Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC, PM Imran Khan issued special orders to assist Chinese investors. Economic Coordination Committee has approved refunds of Pakistani Rs 100 billion to CPEC Independent Power Producers (IPPs). “Out of which Rs 50 billion have already been paid while remaining Rs 50 billion would be paid soon.”

 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will expedite the development of mutual ventures in manufacturing which would incorporate the firms from both borders. Relevant divisions have been directed to step up the work on SEZs, particularly those at Rashakai, Dhabeji, and Faisalabad where some establishment has been done.

At an international level, economic challenges have emerged due to the pandemic over the last two years which has caused an unbelievable loss to the economy. But despite Covid 19, CPEC achieved major progress and both countries achieved huge advancements on CPEC projects without any gaps to boost regional connectivity.

The timely accomplishment and implementation of the CPEC projects was one of the indications of cooperation between Pakistan and China that even COVID 19 could not impact CPEC progress.

Under the joint efforts of government, enterprises, and companies from China and Pakistan, CPEC has gained a great achievement and made a tremendous contribution to the development of Pakistan and regional connectivity.

CPEC will bring integration and prosperity to the entire region. Pakistan needs to enhance its economic relations with the US/Europe and other countries by inviting them to invest in the projects of CPEC.

Pakistan should facilitate all local and foreign investors to invest in the projects of CPEC and remove all bureaucratic hurdles, one window operation is needed.

Due to CPEC this region can be a hub of economic activities and may be the biggest economic bloc in the world. There is a dire need to address the Maritime component of CPEC otherwise we will not be able to take full advantage of CPEC.

Gwadar and CPEC could play as agents of regional connectivity between China, the Middle East, and Africa which is also helpful and advantageous for promoting Pakistan’s maritime interests.

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