Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
THE China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a grand economic alliance and commitment of both the countries to enhance socio-economic prosperity, bilateral trade, joint ventures and last but not the least, energy cooperation. It is an ideal platform to achieve desired goals of economic self-reliance, reduction of poverty, generation of new jobs and, of course, seeking more and more inflows of foreign direct investments (FDIs).
Most recently, on October 15, 2020 the Indian Defence Research Wing (IDRW) republished a controversial article entitled “CPEC is a de facto security alliance” on its webpage. It intentionally termed it a de facto security alliance and tried to contaminate the basic concept of the CPEC being a mega economic growth engine for both the countries and rest of the region too.
The said article correlated the CPEC with so-called long term plan of China & Pakistan to guillotine occupied Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh from India. It further labelled ongoing China-India stand-off as brainchild of the CPEC. It further narrated China as “cautious bully” in its use of military, economic and strategic coercion in the region which has no substance because CPEC is purely meant for economic cooperation and further enhancing of energy mills and nothing to do with military cooperation, coordination and collaboration.
CPEC was designed to reduce physical distances, political barriers and promote blue or maritime economies. In this regard, the said article propagated against strategic importance of the Gwadar seaport and termed it a potential military port for China which is absolutely false, untrue and speculative. The jewel of Pakistan i.e. Gwadar seaport is meant to jell sea routes for easy and smooth supplies of energy resources (oil & gas) and merchant commodities.
It may establish a shortest route between Gwadar and Kashgar region of China which is situated near the borders of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. It may be used for strategic expansion of the CPEC in Central Asian Region (CAR) in the days to come. Kashgar has become a trading hub and one of the important cities on the Silk Road between China, the Middle East and Europe. It has a vast Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which may be further utilized for the greater regional connectivity under the framework of CPEC.
Kashgar also holds a strategic position/location by forming a hub of the Karakoram Highway, which is under tremendous expansion and reconstruction under the umbrella of the CPEC. It criss-crosses China’s energy supplies to Kashgar and western China to transport it 12,900 km from the Middle East Region (MER) through the Strait of Malacca to ports in Hong Kong and Tianjin and thereafter move it overland another 4,100 km. Thus Gwadar seaport has socio-economic significance between the two countries.
According to Chinese official figures (2020) almost 80 percent of China’s oil has been shipped through the Malacca Strait, making it a potential severe choke point close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands thus the Chinese desire to diversify its logistics and develop Gwadar seaport which has nothing to do with any military de facto alliance, base or imminent naval port. The supply route between Gwadar and Kashgar is considered an energy security lifeline for China’s far west.
CPEC also develops roads, super highways, railways, digital connectivity links, energy power plants (thermal, solar, coal, nuclear and thermal) industrial units, agricultural development, and extraction and utilization of Pakistan’s mineral resources. Thus it does not have any hidden agenda for military expansion in the region.
According to a most recently published article entitled “CPEC set for expansion: China Pakistan plans for additional road networks” in The Economic Times (India) Pakistan has now decided to include at least three more mega road projects in the CPEC which will be tabled and discussed in the upcoming 10th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC).
It includes construction of 210 KM western route, Swat Highway Express Phase-II and Peshawar-DI Khan Motorway under the CPEC. The Economic Times of India termed it suspicious and connected it to security of the region. But critical analysis shows that it has nothing to do with regional security but has tangible validity and relevancy with greater regional connectivity. Thus Indian media’s propaganda may not succeed to tarnish the soft image of the CPEC and, of course, China and Pakistan.
Its massive digitization project includes a cross-border optical fibre cable linking Pakistan and China. CPEC is being used to further integrate the two economies, giving a golden opportunity to economic stability and sustainability to Pakistan’s macro-economy. Despite regional as well as international media onslaught CPEC is estimated to create around 700,000-1,000,000 new jobs and add 2.5 percent to Pakistan’s annual GDP growth rate.
Indian mass media has been constantly and purposefully created doubts about its investment price ($62 billion to $ 100 billion) till 2030. It is not based on facts. CPEC’s energy plants have already reduced energy deficits. Coal-fired power plants, each producing 1320 MW, at Sahiwal in Pakistani Punjab, and Port Qasim, Karachi have further reduced energy deficit. The said Indian article projected CPEC loans as high interest oriented which may trap Pakistan into deep sea of debts in the days to come which is untrue and speculative.
It categorically projected China to take equity ownership of these installed projects in Pakistan after imminent failure of recovery of loans. In this context, the Planning Commission of Pakistan, SECP and SBP have already strongly rejected these baseless allegations of all the regional countries and especially India.
India has consistently opposed the CPEC because it supports development activities and projects in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Indian government and its External Affairs Ministry projected Gilgit-Baltistan as disputed area which needs to be re-shaped and redesigned according to wishes and designs of India’ hegemony. The COAS General Qamar Bajwa had a meaningful meeting with all the political parties on the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan. So civilian-army leadership seems to be on one page.
CPEC is a mega economic program between China and Pakistan which does not have any military passion, desire of misadventure, promotion of arms race, establishment of military or naval ports and last but not the least, secretive designs of escalations. Thus CPEC stands for economic reliability, self-reliance, promotion of productive channels and last but not the least, massive industrialization.
Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I urge India and the international community to come out of their self-defined and self-inserted definitions of debts, security risk and violation of basic concepts of territorial sovereignty and economic supremacy of the recipient country. CPEC merely stands for economic equality and befitting equity in which capitalistic coercion has no role to play.