The construction of CPEC for regional peace and prosperity

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The tendency to view the US-Russia-China competition in the region with 19th century lenses, as some sort of a “New Great Game” obscures the impact of globalisation and the common interests that the great powers share in addressing transnational problems

Karamay city near Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People Republic of China is the starting point of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is a flagship project of One Built One Road (OBOR), which is a mega project of an unblocked road and rail network between China and Europe. It is a rejuvenation of the old fabled Silk Road. Fifty seven of the sixty five states along the OBOR are Muslim. CPEC is the epitome of China and Pakistan’s efforts to build a community of shared future.

China is a world in microcosm and has remained a leading civilisation for centuries. From Xia to Qing, many dynasties have ruled China. The 1911 Republican Revolution ended the dynastic rule. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the economic reforms of Deng Xiao Ping paved the way for the People Republic of China’s (PRC) rise to economic prominence.

In international politics, PR China moved from the periphery to the centre and ascended to the rank of a global power. The political thoughts of Deng Xio Ping, which paved the way for China economic rise in international arena are socialism with Chinese characteristics, four modernisations, to get rich is glorious, and black and white cat theory.

Interests bring people near each to other no matter how far apart they may be. The OBOR project involves sixty-five states, which represent, a third of the world’s total economy and more than half of the world population. CPEC will become a model project for OBOR. It reflects a spirit of financial integration, connectivity, cooperation and people to people contact.

Since 2013 when the CPEC initiative was taken, international media gave it a lot of coverage and made guesses regarding what it is and what it is not. In a seminar on CPEC in Beijing in October 2016, Mr. Hu, the Vice-President of CIIS, said that CPEC is economic in nature yet it is a political milestone and will make relations between China and Pakistan firmer, comprehensive and all-round. Khalid Masood, Pakistan’s Ambassador to China on the occasion said that CPEC is building a China-Pakistan community of shared destiny.

Commitment can transform challenges into opportunities. CPEC is open to all, is based on sound assessment, and is the beginning of a win-win game. It will make Pakistan stable and developed and that outcome will benefit all. It is imperative for the smooth construction and completion of CPEC to tolerantly listen to the concerns of all federating units and accommodate genuine demands for the greater good. It will win the hearts and minds of all Pakistanis for the said undertaking. It is a $51.5 billion project and China and Pakistan have signed 51 MOUs in this respect.

CPEC will promote cultural co-existence rather than cultural cleansing and genocide. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Central Asian States will benefit from CPEC. It is an unprecedented undertaking between the two countries. 13000 Chinese are working in Pakistan.

Politics is to minimise your enemies and maximise your friends. China adheres to close relations with Pakistan. It is estimated that by 2025, nearly three-fourths of China’s petroleum imports will traverse the Indian Ocean and the piracy-plagued Straits of Malacca. Gwadar is the epicentre of CPEC and CARs will have direct road, rail and pipeline linkages with the Indian Ocean.

Compared to the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, Chabahar is not a deep-sea port and it cannot hold motherships. There are few countries that match the resources of Pakistan. Regional analysts say that there are eighteen separatist movements in India, and rather than focusing on Balochistan, India should concentrate on its own people and end their alienation.

The tendency to view the U.S.-Russia-China competition in the region with 19th century lenses, as some sort of a “New Great Game” obscures the impact of globalisation and the common interests that the great powers share in addressing transnational problems. The United States, Russia, and China all have an interest in addressing narcotics and human trafficking, illegal arms trade and instability in the region. CPEC is a corridor of people exchange and is comprised of three phases e.g., initiative, comprehensive implementation and unimpeded trade.

China’s primary interest has been in keeping the region quiet and friendly. Conflict makes trade difficult and expensive, and is counterproductive to China’s interests. Energy resources are reshaping the geopolitical map in the region. No single power has capability that comes close to hegemony in the region.

Different economic integration projects are underway in the region. Some of the projects are TAR, TUTAP, CASA-1000, TAPI and CPEC. The Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) is a project to create an integrated freight railway network across Europe and Asia. The principal function of TAR is to allow through railway transport of containers between South Asia and Europe, Southern China and Europe. CASA-1000 project (Central Asia and South Asia-1000) can be complementary to efforts by the ADB to build the TUTAP project, whose electricity lines from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan would flow to Afghanistan and ultimately, Pakistan (TUTAP).

TAPI is a pipeline project that will connect Central Asia to the Arabian Sea via Gwadar, which will be used for transportation of gas from Central Asia to South Asia. Pakistan and China are also up-grading the Karakoram Highway (KKH). The two countries have agreed to open four new road links through the Khunjerab Pass, bringing the total number of China-Pakistan roads links to eight.

CPEC and OBOR are reintegrating regional states through trade and commerce. Peace in Afghanistan and the continuation of efforts to resolve issues, including Kashmir, through peaceful means between Pakistan and India will help in this process of regional stability. Pakistan offers the critical overland routes and connectivity for mutually beneficial trade and energy transactions intra-regionally and inter-regionally.

Pakistan is giving great importance to its trade relations with the regional countries. It is reconnecting itself through roads, rail tracks, pipelines and other communication channels with China, Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to initiate a bus service that would not only enhance trade but also be an important tool to promote people-to-people contact between the four countries.

OBOR and CPEC will galvanise regional peace and development. These projects are a great leap forward in economic integration and regional cooperation and will open new opportunities for people of the region. These praiseworthy visions of the leaders of China and Pakistan will open new avenues of economic opportunities, commonalities of interests and will economically stabilise Eurasia, particularly Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western region of China.

The old and new Silk Road narrative underlines the geo-economic potential of Pakistan. Pakistan’s estimated population is 200 million and is a big market for Chinese products. Pakistan’s participation in OBOR and CPEC symbolises the return of the Indus valley to the crucial place in the region-wide economic and cultural interaction. Sun Tzu says that amid chaos, there is also opportunity. In this context our region is facing big challenges that demand a deep mutually shared understanding. More than ever, the people of our region need an irrevocable commitment to build CPEC to achieve the big goal of regional peace and prosperity.

The writer is Associate Professor, University of Peshawar. He can be reached at zauop@yahoo.com