Significance of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor):-
As a flagship of China’s One Belt One Road initiative, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is pivotal to China’s energy security owing to the growing row in the region of the South China Sea between China and other regional and global players. The CPEC could bring economic avenues to Pakistan and can foster regional and cross-regional economic and trade integration between South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and West Asia. However, it is also surrounded by some serious challenges ranging from regional security environment and internal instability to political discontent among various political actors in Pakistan.
CPEC Benefits to Pakistan:-
For Pakistan, the CPEC is more than simply a “route” or a “corridor.” Indeed, Pakistan is counting on the CPEC to drive future growth. Nearly three times more than the estimated $12 billion costs of building the road and railway network will be required to develop the energy infrastructure envisioned under CPEC for the purpose of alleviating Pakistan’s chronic energy.
In November, China announced an additional $8.5 billion investment in Pakistan to upgrade the country’s main railway line from Karachi to Peshawar and to support the construction of a liquified natural gas (L.N.G.) terminal and transmission lines.
The OBOR is part of China’s grand strategy of its peaceful rise as a great power on the global stage through financial initiatives of the $40 billion Silk Road Fund and the 57 members Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to generate new growth engines along the New Silk Road with a win-win and cooperative approach.
Historically, the China-Pakistan relations have remained more military-oriented, but it seems that a new beginning has begun to make the relationship more economically oriented, focusing on trade, investment, and energy cooperation.
The CPEC has the potential to further deepen the relationship between China and Pakistan both economically and at the public level and can change as the latter considers the CPEC, Gwadar Port under the control of China can be turned into a permanent Chinese naval facility in the Indian Ocean though it may not be a reality at least at this stage.
Strategical and economical importance of CPEC:-
The CPEC is strategically and economically important both for China and Pakistan. It will pave the way for China to access the Middle East and 22w from Gwadar Port, enabling China to access the Indian Ocean. In return, China will support development projects in Pakistan to overcome the latter’s energy crises and stabilize its faltering economy.
The CPEC could serve as the driver for trade and economic integration between China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian States, providing the frosty political atmosphere between Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, and to some extent, Iran gets improved soon. Under the CPEC US$, 10 billion will be spent on infrastructure development alone that could rejuvenate Pakistan’s dilapidated communication and infrastructure, overcome the energy crisis, and could transport trade goods from Pakistan to China, the Middle East, and across the regional states and global level. At this stage, CPEC seems to be a bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan, however, in the long run, it has the prospects to be a multilateral project.
Challenges to CPEC:-
Despite its strategic significance both for China and Pakistan; the CPEC is not without challenges. It is surrounded by regional security and political challenges for its smooth execution.
1. Regional and internal security challenges to CPEC:-
Regional and internal security challenges Regional security could be the biggest issue for the CPEC as it passes through some of the areas facing the biggest security challenges. The biggest challenge to the CPEC is the regional security environment; specifically the Afghanistan conundrum. China’s huge investment in the region is hinged on the peace and stability both in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Western parts of China. Therefore, China is actively pursuing to bring the Taliban to negotiating table within the quadrilateral framework between China, Pakistan, the US, and Afghanistan. The security situation in Afghanistan is getting worse day by day.
With the refusal of a talk by the Taliban in their recent statements, it seems that it will take time to prevail peace in Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan is of utmost importance in the Western parts of China. This could create security issues for the mega projects, namely Thing and CPEC in the region. Within Pakistan, the situation is not good equally. The long-lasting insurgency in Baluchistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) could hinder the further materializing of the CPEC.
As Lieven has noted that after the Withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s survival will remain a vital concern for the Western and Chinese interests in the region. China is equally worried about the security situation of Afghanistan could move over, and the antagonistic attitude of the public of Pakistan and India could be a stumbling block that affects the Xingjian province, which is an important region for the functioning of the CPEC.
Moreover, the antagonistic attitude of the public of Pakistan and India could be a stumbling block in getting the public support for the Indian inclusion in the CPEC to make it across the regional moves. Pakistan’s internal security has improved qualitatively after the military operation against the militants, yet the security phenomenon in Pakistan will remain a challenge to execute mega projects like CPEC smoothly. Although a special security force has been formed to protect the difficult terrains through which the CPEC will pass in Pakistan, security will remain a hinge for CPEC.
2. Challenges to CPEC in Baluchistan-:
The long-existing insurgency in Baluchistan can pose constraints to the execution of CPEC and related projects, including the Gwadar Port. The rising insurgency in Baluchistan is a challenge to the CPEC as well as to the federation of Pakistan and resolving it is imperative for the secure trade corridor between China and Pakistan. Lately, many non-locals, businesses, and multinational companies’ personnel have come under attack in the restive Baluchistan region.
A debate is already going on in the indigenous populace of Baluchistan that the CPEC will benefit only the Chinese interest and could convert the local population into a minority Such feelings of deprivation coupled with foreign involvement in the province have been claimed by Pakistan recently, can be a serious challenge to CPEC.
Addressing the concerns of the Baloch people is imperative for the success of the CPEC and that could be done through a sane policy of integrating the least integrated Baluchistan and its people into the political process of Pakistan. The political and economic deprivation is one of the major causes of uprising in Baluchistan and meeting these deprivations is pertinent to the peace in Baluchistan.
3. Challenges for CPEC in FATA:-
The CPĒC will also pass through some parts of FATA and in the future, the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan is linked with the stability in the FATA region of Pakistan. Therefore, the security of Gwadar and the whole region is a serious concern for China and its interests in Baluchistan.
In addition to the Baluchistan issue, the people of Gilgit Baltistan are also demanding their part in the CPEC. The region has recently witnessed protests and strikes demanding political and economic rights, including a fair share in the CPEC as it is the entry point of CPEC.Political Discontent in Pakistan
4. CPEC and political discontent in Pakistan:-
The political controversy among various political parties is yet another challenge to overcome for the smooth functioning of the CPEC in Pakistan. The discontentment is mainly for route selection, dividends, and allocations of funds for projects under the CPEC. Although the ruling regime through the APCs (All Party Conferences) has tried to ally the grievances of the provinces, mainly of KPK and Baluchistan, yet it seems the issue has not been resolved.
The political differences over the CPEC among various political parties are deep-rooted in the history of the political economy of Pakistan, where the allocation of resources has always been politicized for political gains. The smaller provinces have concerns over the policies of the federal government where the resources, including the federal budget, are allocated on the basis of the population rather than the backwardness and poverty conditions in the respective federating units.
Given the magnitude and scope of the CPEC, Pakistan needs more highly skilled labor to execute various projects of the CPEC. The existing labor skills are not enough to pursue the CPEC and its related projects in Pakistan. The issues pertaining to transparency about CPEC-related projects are also rising. The political parties and other stakeholders have shown their concerns over the lack of transparency and have demanded that all agreements related to CPEC be made public. However, the concerned ministries are reluctant to make it public, which further increases the doubts about the transparency of the project.
CPEC could foster socio-economic development in Pakistan if materialized timely. It can pave the way for regional economic and trade connectivity and integration between the region of South, Central, and East Asia, but that needs a change in the existing attitude of India and Pakistan toward more economic and trade relations. The regional economic integration through CPEC could be a harbinger to resolving the political differences through economic cooperation. The states of South Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia need a more regional economic connection to make the 21st century the Asian century setting aside the perennial political issues to start a new beginning.
The CPEC, as a flagship of OBOR, can be a catalyst to begin regional trade and economic integration. However, some potential threats could hamper the CPEC to be transformed into a reality, namely the worsening security situation in Afghanistan and its spillover to Pakistan, political controversy in Pakistan regarding the selection of routes in various provinces of Pakistan, and the trust deficit among certain regional states. In a longer perspective, the CPEC can foster an economic community in the entire region of Asia and beyond if its vision is materialized in its true sense.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) represents a new and exceedingly ambitious model of cooperation for these two all-weather partners. The realization of the many developmental and prospective benefits for each of the two countries depends upon the successful completion of the myriad projects designed to lay the infrastructural latticework for multifaceted bilateral economic cooperation and regional connectivity.
The persistence of non-traditional security threats makes the progress that has already been achieved in developing this infrastructure within the relatively short span of time since its conceptualization all the more remarkable. Yet, given the extent to which terrorist and militant outfits have entrenched themselves in Pakistan, inoculating the CPEC against them seems unlikely.
To be sure, Pakistan has taken significant steps to develop and deploy – both on land and sea — the military assets deemed necessary to mitigate the risks associated with symmetrical security threats to the CPEC. Indeed, China has supported these and broader efforts by Pakistan to enhance its overall conventional military capabilities.
However, increased China-Pakistan military cooperation is occurring against the backdrop of intensifying competition amongst the various regional states, including rising India-Pakistan tension and growing irritation between China and India. Thus, the very measures ostensibly aimed at tackling non-traditional security challenges could inadvertently heighten threat perceptions and fuel interstate rivalry, thereby accentuating the risks to the CPEC rather than ameliorating them.