By Hassan Sohail
On April 2015 the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad, it was a significant breakthrough for the China-Pakistan foreign relationship. The Chinese President announced a 46 billion dollar investment project which is known as China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China’s broader vision of“one road one belt”. The CPEC will connect the Chinese North-Western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani South Western city of Gwadar. CPEC will connect China and Pakistan through networks of road and rail infrastructures. Moreover, energy pipelines electricity transmission lines, and trade zones will be established along the roads.
Historically China and Pakistan have enjoyed cordial relations since 1960s. In 1966 the Karakoram Highway was built by Chinese and Pakistani engineers, completing it in 1978, opening it to public use in 1984. The main purpose of the KKH was to connect China and Pakistan via highways. Primarily, China is keen to increase connectivity with Pakistan because this would help China to have an alternative and shorter route for its energy imports, while benefitting Pakistan through infusion of investment. TheGDP in Pakistan is decreasing due to complex challenges& obstacles.
Moreover, the significant factors of the CPEC include a 3000 km length road which intersects Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and lastly Baluchistan from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Hence this would greatly benefit regions of Pakistan through which the route passes in the form of communication infrastructure, energy zones and industrial zones. Strategically, China would have greater accessibility and control over Indian Ocean via Gwadar, it would supply it finished manufactured goods and exports to West and on the other hand Gwadar port and the successful completion would considerably reduce the distance and cost of importing energy and gas supplies for China. China will have great opportunity to stabilize the Xinjian region which is going under turmoil. However, CPEC would be a game changer in the South Asian regional geopolitics.
Nonetheless, CPEC would be facing numbers of obstacle in its way forward which are thinkable. Firstly, the security issue which is the most prime concern of the project, the highways and rail road’s needs protection from any sort of internal threat due to instability in certain regions. Secondly, terrorism challenge is always there although the ongoing operation Zarb e Azb against the terrorist out fits is eliminating terrorism in the country but still there is a threat in the areas of Baluchistan and KPK. Thirdly, the weather issue is a natural obstacle in the areas of Gilgit snow and rain could block the highway passage which can stop the international trade route.
To conclude, the CPEC will take ten to fifteen years to be completed. Chinese are well committed to complete the project in the given time. Both Pakistan and China are very much optimistic about CPEC which will increase cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Hassan Sohail is a Researcher at Center For International Strategic Studies (CISS)