BY AMNA JAVED ,
Moving from geo-politics towards geo-economics
There is no repudiating of the fast paced changes which are taking place in the international arena. Without a doubt a multipolar order is on the horizon and has both benefits as well as visible vulnerabilities which must be taken into consideration by each state which could have stakes in it. Pakistan is in the middle of a quagmire concerning its policies regarding powerful states and stabalizing economies. In such a time for Pakistan perhaps CPEC has come as a blessing in disguise.
CPEC is perhaps the most awaited spectacle in the international arena at the moment. In this century it has the potential to be a deal breaker for not only international relations but also for regional dynamics. These new realities will then shape and re-shape global scenarios—not only for China or other states which might benefit—but massively for Pakistan. We see that at the same time it provides enough oppurtunities to Pakistan’s otherwise crumbling economy. But it comes with a number of challenges that Pakistan will have to face.
For a better understanding of the concepts of CPEC and the implications it carries, lets divide them into two sets; internal and external impact for Pakistan. Overall it must be taken into account that the complete picture is a holistic one, where one factor is balanced with the other. This is exactly what makes CPEC something of a unique project for Pakistan, not just in its magnanimity but its overall shape.
At present, Pakistan’s internal structure is at the juncture where it is not very stable that everything is under firm control politically, security wise and economically. This makes the time for initialising CPEC somewhat perfect as long as in the future course of action it furthers into a geo-economical win for both China and Pakistan. The current government of Pakistan has taken a great resourcefulness in securing this deal with China—its longstanding friend and ally.
Firstly, if the government manages to pull it through and all the provinces get equal representation in this mega-project then there is no doubt about the economic uplift Pakistani industry will get. More than anything the provinces which are currently lagging like Sindh and Balochistan will definitely start to develop more and more and as an offshoot, business ventures will perhaps go through a boom. There might be an increase in trading from these areas to international channels. In fact if CPEC is to be an ultimate success it largely depends on equal participation of all provinces.
Secondly, CPEC will create job oppurtinities inside Pakistan along with the imporvement of the infrastructure and communication services proving a step forward for the overall development of the country.
Thirdly, the overall security situation inside Pakistan is bound to improve, because it then singularly depends on the internal peace in order for CPEC to come through. This is one factor that is known to both the government as well as security agencies. It is a matter of great concern that even today Pakistan has this menace of terrorism which is somewhat hiding away and only comes out after long intervals of time. Terrorism will definitely lead to a complete annihilation of this project. To make sure this does not happen, there would be involuntary efforts by the state, military and the agencies to completely wipe this peril out ultimately leading towards a peaceful state of affairs.
Strategically some emerging powers like India and Iran surround Pakistan geographically, yet politically it has been at odds with them
Finally, the project is going to bridge the gap between the state and the military faction. Both parties are equally involved in the stakes for the implementation and safeguarding of this project. They would perhaps work together in safeguarding this venture in such a way that is beneficial on the whole for Pakistan. This will in turn make both institutions stronger in their own capacity. Additionally, this bridge might as well make the state and the government and the overall structure more favourable to the public which at the moment has trust issues regarding the system.
The importance of this project will be versatile in a multi-polar world order when Pakistan will overcome internal hindrances. In this regard Pakistan’s international standing will also benefit. But it might open a new pattern in the international system. The entire strategic blueprint is now moving tacitly from geo-politics towards geo-economics. This means powerful states are also moving towards exploring as well as exploiting the resource of the lesser developed states. This is exactly where multipolarity comes into play as well.
Strategically some emerging powers like India and Iran surround Pakistan geographically, yet politically it has been at odds with them. Launching CPEC then should be seen as an opening for Pakistan to improve its foreign relations with all such states if it wishes CPEC to be a not only a success but survive and thrive. Pakistan must take this as an oppurtunity to improve its relations with Iran, US, UAE and Russia and in a far off way even India—lest these states become an alligned hinderence for Pakistan and CPEC. If it does not follow through this pattern then strained and complicated relations can easily be expected with the fore-mentioned states.
Ultimately the success of this venture and its implications on Pakistan largely depend on which way Pakistan is to go with it. This afterall is going to reshape the future of not only China, but other states as well and largely Pakistan might be the ultimate benefactor. But for that Pakistan needs to play its cards right. This venture is going to be a bottom-up approach but in a matter of time, if not played right can easily turn into a top-down one as well. It is going to be a strategic gamble, one which involves not one but all the major powers as in a way, all of them are to be stakeholders in this situation. If Pakistan is to have an international standing after all in a multi-polar world, CPEC might be the way to do so. But it could also be the other way around and to avoid that there must be strict measures taken by Pakistan and it must be shown in some way that Pakistan is ready to take this challenge head on. This can occur through the internal level—so that in the external level things can become stable.
Amna Javed is currently working with Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) as a research fellow. She is also a visiting faculty at School of Politics and IR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.