Financing of multiple projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has now reached to $62 billion, jumping from its initial investment of $46 billion in 2015. It is a flag ship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a fate changer for Pakistan and a game changer for the region. To understand the socioeconomic significance of this project, one needs to go back a couple of years to have a look at the then socioeconomic and security condition of Pakistan. Those were the darkest years in the history of Pakistan when the economy had halted, terrorism was mounting and the law and order situation was deteriorating sharply. No country was ready to invest in Pakistan and the Pakistani businessmen were shifting their business abroad because of security threats.
At such a crucial time China’s pledge to invest billions of dollars in Pakistan was nothing less than the beginning of a new era. After years of progress, the commercial significance of the project is evident today. The intra-state infrastructure is getting transformed, energy needs of the people are going to be fulfilled, thousands of locals are getting employed, local businesses along the corridor are boosting and a way for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is paved as regional states have shown interest to be part of the project. Besides the commercial significance, the project is also crucial for the security and geopolitics of Pakistan.
Internal/regional security and success of the CPEC are interlinked. Absence of security and stability means failure of CPEC and vice versa. The shortest and economical route of western alignment cannot be utilized properly in presence of trouble makers in tribal areas whereas the port city cannot attract FDI in presence of militants in Balochistan. This is the reason the governments of Pakistan and China are working on priority basis to bring peace and stability along the route. Pakistan has successfully implemented the National Action Plan (NAP) domestically. It has cleared the tribal areas from militants and hundreds of Baloch militants from various banned groups have laid down their arms before the government. Today there is no organized camp of terrorists on Pakistani soil.
Similarly, China is also working to bring peace and stability in the region by meditating between the two adversary neighbours i.e. Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both states are immediate and important neighbours for China to have access to regional and global markets. Rivalry of these two states not only creates hurdles for economic interests of China, but it also threatens the security situation in the autonomous region of Xinxiang where Uighur fighters are fighting for independence for decades. To secure its national interests, China is engaged with both of its neighbours at bilateral, trilateral and regional level to bring both of them closer to each other. Cordial relations between both the states is pre-requisite to the peace and prosperity in both states, for the success of the CPEC and to achieve China’s global interests.
Success of Pakistan against terrorism, and arbitration of China at regional level to secure the mega project proves that success of CPEC will guarantee internal and regional peace and stability in the long run. This multi-billion project is a ray of hope for peace and prosperity of the region. It can play the key role in regional integration by creating economic interdependence between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a win-win project for all the three states through which they can achieve the desired national and regional objectives.
With the success of CPEC, Pakistan’s position in geopolitics will become stronger. Though Pakistan had been aligned with the capitalist bloc during the Cold War, it had never been supported the way it should have been during crisis situations, which also resulted in the disintegration of Pakistan. The state also played the most crucial part in defeating Communism, but in reward it got sanctions from its Cold War allies. Pakistan was left alone to face the troubles in its western neighbourhood and when it tried to handle the situation there, with its limited resources and capability, the world blamed it for creating troubles, including the civil war.
Similarly, Pakistan supported the American invasion, provided airbases and routes and became a major non-NATO ally in Afghanistan. Consequently, Pakistan became the second most affected country of the so-called war on terror after Afghanistan by losing more than 74,000 lives and suffered economic loss of at least $123 billion. Despite all the support and sacrifices, Pakistan is scapegoated by its allies for their failure in Afghanistan. Though Pakistan is assisted financially to some extent for the services it rendered during American war on terror, it has always been cornered diplomatically by maintaining strategic partnership with India in quest to contain China. America has always been proved a seasonal friend who has often left Pakistan unattended, whereas China has proved to be an all-weather friend who has always supported Pakistan bilaterally, regionally and globally. Both the US and India have objections over CPEC, but the success of this mega-project will shift the geopolitics in the region, will make the Sino-Pak partnership stronger than ever before and will significantly reduce Pakistani’s dependency on west.