Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. Certainly, no one can disregard the plan or idea reaching out to success through collaboration. In 2013, China has revealed the plan for resumption of ancient Silk Road. It was not merely a plan but a pragmatic start keeping in view all the circumstances and consequences. Chinese termed this as one belt, one road (OBOD), which further consists of two components. One is the “silk road Economic belt” (SREB), while the other is “Maritime silk road” (MSR). One belt one road approach is an integrated policy to connect China with Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa. BRI involves over $3 trillion spending during the next several decades on several infrastructure investments in 68 countries. The underline strategy is to modify the scenario of global affairs by bringing change in global dynamics along with inducing the gigantic development in the region as well as in the countries part of the roadmap of this initiative. China Pakistan economic corridor is one of the icon projects under the policy framework of this one belt one road venture. It is a flagship project under the umbrella of BRI.
The project was officially launched in April 2015. During the last 5 years, a quarter of announced projects have been completed. CPEC is perhaps the most influential project not only in the region but echoes can also be heard around the world. This is indeed an economically diversified project and has immense impact due to the strategic location. Under this project, landlocked countries would be able to access other countries through sea routes. CPEC has enormous importance for China as china will not face any obstruction in its trade with Africa, West or with the Middle East countries in case of any uncertain situation within the region. On the other hand, CPEC has many blessings for Pakistan whether its investment opportunities or infrastructural development. So far this is a hefty investment ever done in Pakistan. CPEC is creating job opportunities for people in Pakistan as it is spreading to the entire length of the country. The positive impact of this project is also very much evident as it is encouraging other investors to invest in Pakistan. While emphasizing on the maritime Silk Road policy framework, in order to evade further hindrances and for the smooth flow of transportation of oil to the Middle East countries by China, Gwadar port is indeed heaven. It has narrowed the distance as well as has increased the trade flow in the said regions. The strategic location and measures which have been taken already made Gwadar safer. This is the reason by which CPEC has become a crucial entity in this voyage of one belt one road project. Gwadar is also a convergence point of both the maritime and land belts as well as an entry point to the Arabian Sea. The survival and functionality of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is indispensable for linking the central Asian countries through the Xinjiang province of China. Furthermore, Gwadar is the centre of gravity for all the ongoing and proposed developmental projects. The project holds tremendous potential. Governments in Pakistan and China are fully aware of the importance of CPEC and are committed to delivering.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Belt and Road Forum said, “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is one of the BRI’s major components and one of its earliest manifestations and has made substantial progress.”
The importance of the project can be contemplated by evaluating the extent and potential areas in which collaboration between the two countries is on its way to meet the destination. As per Pakistan’s official site for CPEC, the potential areas includes, Transport Infrastructure, Energy Hub/flows, Logistic Hub/flows, Trade & Commerce, Peace & development of the region, Connectivity/Harmonization/Integration of civilizations, Diverse Investment opportunities, Industrial Cooperation, Financial Cooperation, Agricultural Cooperation, Tourism, Educational linkage, Human resource development, Health Care, People to people contact, Increase in livelihood opportunities and enhancing Security and stability of the region.
Both sides have confirmed that major progress has been achieved by starting or completing various projects worth more than US$25 billion of direct investments to Pakistan. The incumbent government in Pakistan has revamped the project with the inclusion of a few more sectors or initiatives in it. The new deals include two hydropower generation projects costing $3.9 billion in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a plan of revamping the South Asian nation’s colonial-era railways for $7.2 billion and establishment of a special economic zone (SEZ) in Faisalabad. This decision has given new energy to CPEC.
In 2020, there were series of groundbreaking ceremonies and inauguration of completed projects. Every institution in Pakistan is playing its role and be worthy of admiration but the CPEC Authority is playing a real part when it comes to the successful completion of various projects. Construction of dams is an important and biggest achievement. Dams have a huge effect on the economy in the shape of inexpensive electricity for households and industries, food production and a sustainable flow of water as per needs of different areas. Speedy work on Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Gwadar Port and many social development programmes as also evident attainment. These special economic zones have so many implications. For instance, Rashakai SEZ can generate business opportunities for the newly merged districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It will certainly be helpful to avert poverty and eventually endorse peace through the enhanced economy. The progress on Gwadar Port and Free Economic Zone also remained up to the mark in the past year. Gwadar Port has started operations and is facilitating transit trade with Afghanistan. Gwadar Port has already started operations and transit trade with Afghanistan is in progress through this particular platform. This is indeed is a step towards regional connectivity and beyond. Free economic zone will attract investors; therefore, eco-tourism along the coastal line is also in full swing.
Fortunately, Social development projects have also got fresh momentum in 2020. China has already extended $300 million for different programmes last year in this regard. It is valuable to mention that $100 million has been diverted to agriculture in order to meet the urgent needs of the sector. Housing and healthcare sectors have also been offered $100 million each for accomplishing the current needs of the people. These offers are part of the social development program under CPEC. CPEC Authority Chairman retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has recently revealed, “CPEC is a transformational project, a game-changer for Pakistan. The environment in the region is improving by the day, Pakistan is becoming the centre of all the development, and peace and prosperity are becoming visible in our lifetime. We have to take advantage of this.”
The second phase of CPEC started in late 2019, which further stimulated economic enlargement with a specific focus on industrialization, agriculture, and socio-economic development. The enhanced focus on industrialization, technological advancement and economic development has raised the concerns for sustainable economic development. The requirement for ecotourism has been increased with the commencement of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) exclusively in northern areas of Pakistan. The Matiari-Lahore high-voltage direct current transmission line, one of the major projects under the CPEC, is also recently completed. Such initiatives will further help Pakistan to overcome the issues related to power generation and its shortage. The benefits of the China Pakistan Economic corridor are immense. With the commencement of all power projects, last year along with energy imports by energy tunnels will augment the energy supply security in Pakistan. With this supply of energy, CPEC is anticipated to add 2.5% into the current GDP and its growth to 7.5%.
China is Pakistan’s prime trading collaborator in imports and exports. Therefore, CPEC is a platform to augment the rewarding economic assistance between the two countries. The overall development under CPEC is not limited or confined to a few specific segments. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor intends to offer a structural alteration in Pakistan and the region. Once we talk about the inclusion of local people into the projects by providing them with an opportunity to work and grow, it is noticed that almost 75000 jobs have been availed by locals in the early phase of CPEC. At present, foreign workers are employed in the maintenance department. Moreover, almost 100 domestic labourers are working on the managerial level in the maintenance department. Furthermore, many vocational and training centres are initiated at specific site areas in order to provide free of cost training to the local semi-skilled workforce. This initiative will help them to learn the required skill to further flourish.
Paybacks and growth are not just limited to the mentioned categories. All propagandas to derail CPEC met a great failure. The best way to avert such propaganda is to work together more effectively and pragmatically and no doubt, the Governments in both countries are in quest of achieving more success with the completion of all the desired projects. Both sides are making rigorous efforts to implement the projects under the umbrella of CPEC as well as to lift the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership to a new height.