Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a mega project undertaken by China and Pakistan with $ 52 billion Chinese investment to connect Kashghar city of the Xinjiag Autonomous Region of China to Gwadar port city of Balochistan province of Pakistan. These two cities are being connected through construction of a vast network of highways, railways, airports, oil/gas pipelines, many energy projects, construction of special economic zones (SEZs) along the route and laying of fibre optics for telecommunications and internet. Modern transportation networks built under the CPEC will link Gwadar and Karachi seaports with northern Pakistan, including Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit-Baltistan, western China and Central Asia. The CPEC plan includes the construction of an 1100 kilometre motorway from Karachi to Lahore, complete reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway from Rawalpindi to China’s border, upgradation of main Karachi-Peshawar railway line so that trains could travel at over160 kilometres of speed, that will be finally connected to the Xinjinag province railway system of Chinaup to Kashghar. This entire transportation network will cost 11 billion. The CPEC projects also include construction of oil and gas pipelines from Gwadar port to Kashghar, China. To address the issue of energy shortage in Pakistan energy projects worth $33 billion are being built in Pakistan as part of the CPEC plan. While the SEZs will be constructed to give a boost to industrial development, fibre optic will be laid to do the business through fast track communication networks. This entire network of energy, transportation and communication projects under CPEC, after completion is expected to give major strategic and economic advantages to Pakistan and China.
Firstly the CPEC gives China an alternate shorter route for transportation of oil and gas from West Asia and Middle East and for trade to and from West Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. A large oil/gas depot will also be constructed for storage and further transportation to Chinathrough pipelines. The route is only about 2500 kilometres long as compared with the route through Malacca Straits to Shanghai, which is about 14500 kilometres long. While the route to China through Gwadar reduces the distance by about 12000 kilometres and likewise the travelling time, this route will also prove to be a good alternative to keep the supplies going even during any tensions in South East Asia and South China Sea, which might cause closure of the Malacca Straights. This route would also provide an easy and quick access to China to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
The CPEC would provide a major boost to Pakistan’s economy by substantially increasing its trade volumes with China, Central Asia, Russia, Middle East and Europe. Apart from this, during the construction phase and after completion of the CPEC, Pakistan economic growth by about 3 percent due to increase in its industrial output due to the availability of electricity and because of enhanced production out of the SEZs and also based on an increase in the agricultural production due to cooperation with China and sharing of technology as well with our all-weather friend. Moreover, after completion of the CPEC foreign investment in Pakistan would also increase, which will further enhance the economic growth rate. Another major advantage to Pakistan would be a major increase in the revenue to be earned due to transiting goods of other countries. Another major advantage would be that CPEC would create employment opportunities for the Pakistani people to the tune of about two to three million. The CPEC would also increase tourism in Pakistan, which will facilitate flourishing of the tourism and hotel industry of Pakistan centred around commercial activities in Gwadar city.
Since many regional and extra-regional countrieswould be joining the CPEC, this would enhance Pakistan’s international stature, people-to-people contacts and this will create an environment of peace and stability in South Asia. Hence we can expect that South Asian countries will also prefer CPEC lead geo-economics over geopolitics and they will be able to resolve their major disputes like Jammu & Kashmir and achieve peace in South Asia, including Afghanistan. This would in turn facilitate South Asia’s interconnectivity and its connectivity with China, Central Asia, West Asia and Russia and even with other regions.
Another major benefit to Pakistan would be that Pakistan-China strategic partnership would be further cemented and it would further enhance Pakistan’s defence capabilities. This will be because of two factors, one that Pakistan-China’s defence cooperation will further increase and having stakes in Pakistan’ security and stability, China will be standing with Pakistan in case of tensions in South Asia. Moreover, some other major powers like Russia and some European powers will also develop their partnerships with Pakistan and contribute towards peace and stability in South Asia. While this will facilitate stability in the region, Pakistan will also be able to import defence technology from Western countries and Russia and Pakistan’s defence will be further strengthened.
In the overall perspective, it can be concluded that CPEC will bring many major strategic and economic advantages to Pakistan and China and while this will give a big opportunity to become an advanced major economic power and it will also become a major military power to defend its national interests