ASIABUSINESSOPINION

CPEC and the way forward

By Kinza Arif

A common feature of contemporary era’s politics and economy is embedded in interdependency. This feature evidently promotes bilateral and multilateral relations amid the world states. States actively pursue to have robust ties to attain political and economic goals. Interdependency is the underlying feature of international arena. In regards to Pak-China relations, their interactions are rooted in positivism. Both share common interests in regards to regional security and have always preferred strong defensive ties. Pakistan was the first state to recognize communist China and was the first non-communist state to start air plane services with them. This conduct was highly appreciated by the Chinese people and acted as the stepping stone for their intensified bilateral relations.

Historically, China has favored having strengthened ties with Pakistan, which was evident during the Soviet-Afghan War, when China supported Pakistan’s and US united front to defeat Soviet’s imperialistic ambitions. China has actively supported and provided assistance to Pakistan in matters concerning their internal security and establishment of a strong nuclear front; where they have actively opted to have multiple defense and nuclear deals with Pakistan. China’s assistance in development of Chashma Nuclear Power Plant aids Pakistan in the production of alternative energy sources. However, one cannot disregard the regional dynamics which actively influence both states policy prescriptions. The post 9/11 scenario has created a loophole which allows US and India to engage in strong bilateral relations. US and India have shared stronger diplomatic links in comparison to Pakistan; where our relations have taken a bumpy road. The progressive ties amidst US and India have complicated the regional dynamics. The nexus which has been emerging as a consequence of Indo-US Nuclear deal and the NSG waiver provided to India enforces Pakistan to have stronger ties with other states, such as China and Russia. US efforts to strengthen defense, nuclear and economic arrangements with India are viewed as a political tool to counter China. Their strengthened relations with India ensures their presence in the region, and along with it, their presence remains persistent and heightened due to the situation in Afghanistan.

State’s foreign policies are deeply influenced by the international and regional dynamics. Pakistan’s shared optimistic history with China enables them to opt for intensified relations, which in the recent years has been evident. Registering the changing regional scenarios, both states have opted to engage via strong economic relations in form of CPEC initiative. Both states will most likely work towards enhancing their diplomatic relations and CPEC can be viewed as a positive step towards it. This initiative also marks a shift in Pakistan foreign policy and allows Pakistan to intensify their relations within the region, as well as, the globe. And along with it, showcases Pakistan’s key interest to strengthen their regional ties. A constructive image of Pakistan is developed with the recent changes in its foreign policy. They are advancing towards strengthening their economic and defensive ties, and eventually empowering themselves as a key player in the region. One can view that this forum will allow Pakistan to connect with the globe, as other European states have also showed keen interests towards CPEC initiative. It serves as a positive forum for both states as this would also increase region to region ties.

CPEC project is a $46 billion bilateral arrangement amidst China and Pakistan. Many analysts regard it as a game changer in the geopolitics of South Asia. Under this initiative, both states have signed 51 agreements and the four prime areas of collaboration revolve around; infrastructure, transportation, energy and industrial cooperation. In order to assist Pakistan to overcome their recent energy issues, 21 agreements have been signed to address upon the energy constrains.  It has been estimated that these projects will help Pakistan to overcome their energy issues by 2018. Other investments, which focus upon infrastructure, are also estimated to boost Pakistan’s GDP by 15%. Essentially, generating a forum where such arrangements lead towards ensured regional peace and stability and along with it allows Pakistan to develop their tourist markets. This initiative also allows China’s economy to flourish, it has been estimated that under this channel their exports have increased drastically to Pakistan in the recent years. CPEC initiative allows both states to broaden their scopes in terms of regional connectivity and economic development. Other than enhanced economic cooperation’s, it can also assist in development of strategic influences and ties in the region. China’s interaction with the Central Asian and Middle Eastern states can be further improved. It also allows them to overcome the South-China sea issue, as CPEC’s initiative provides China with the shortest route to fulfill their energy needs and also enables Pakistan to develop their less saturated regions.

CPEC’s initiative has not been widely approved by the regional community, especially India. According to their perspective, their security would be drastically affected by this developmental track; India has thus opted for further strengthened ties with Afghanistan and Iran. Chabahar ports initiation is widely regarded by many analysts as a counter to CPEC, which allows Pakistan to further develop Gwadar port. Strategically, Gwadar port holds immense influence as it lies near Strait of Hormuz which is a central international oil shipping route. This also attracts the Central Asian countries; they are keen to join this initiative, as it would allow them to access Arabian Ocean and the Indian Ocean. This would also assist them to further develop integrated relations with the region and they can also find markets for their resources. On the other hand, European states can find alternate routes to fulfill their energy needs which in the recent years have faced interruptions due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by EU and US. Russia’s interest towards CPEC also showcases their shift in policy, as they are expanding their influences towards this region. This would also allow them to maintain their influence over the Central Asian countries and also connect them with their previous allies such as China. Subsequently, allowing them to access the warm waters of the region. In the recent years, the nexus developed within India and Afghanistan showcases their animosity towards Pakistan. Both states have blamed Pakistan multiple times for funding terrorism and creating volatile environment in the region. In response to these allegations, Pakistan has maintained that India and Kabul have joined hands together to aid insurgents in Baluchistan to tamper with their internal security. Many analysts believe that those actors who oppose the developmental track of CPEC will most likely attempt to create hindrances. From the Indian perspective; some analysts believe that Baluchistan has been occupied by Pakistan through unfair means and they are exercising illegitimate control upon them. According to their understanding, Baluchistan is a completely separate entity than Pakistan. They also hold an entirely different opinion towards the Gilgat-Baltistan, where they claim it as a part of Indian Territory. They widely believe that Pakistan cannot pursue the CPEC project without the consent of India. These claims showcase their wide disapproval towards the initiation of this project.

Other security implications have also complicated the situation, but Pakistan has actively deployed their forces to counter terrorism and other security issues. Recently, China has also provided two ships to Pakistan Navy for joint security along the sea route of CPEC.  Additional reports suggest that two more vessels will also be provided.  On the other hand, Pakistan is also moving forward to strengthen their nuclear program. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has also created fruitful results in minimizing terrorist attacks within Pakistan’s territory. In the recent World Economic Forum of 2017, the previous COAS Gen Raheel Sharif also stated that integrated ties need to be present with the international community to counter terrorism. Intensified regional interactions and ties would also assist in developing a peaceful region.

In that context, China and Pakistan are actively pursuing to strengthen their relations; CPEC is regarded as China’s biggest overseas project. A more constructive approach is adopted by both entities, analysts also believe that this project would enhance both states military capabilities, and would enable China to have an easier access to the Arabian Sea. In order to counter Indian ambitions to become a regional hegemony, Pakistani defense officials are keen for the Chinese navy to establish strong presence in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. In regards to the recent threats developed via non-state actors, Pakistan aims to intensify defense protocols. They are attempting to increase security within state to counter any threats to the development of this project. To achieve this they are actively strengthening their sea-defenses and are also interested in importing high tech ships from China and Turkey. The prime aim is to deploy a special Squadron at the Gwadar Port to enhance security measures and to ensure that no hindrances are created to achieve its conclusion.

CPEC initiative is not one dimensional and does not promote only one arena of development. This initiative allows both states to develop stronger cultural ties. China has widely supported and has shown great appreciation towards Pakistan’s efforts regarding expansion of Chinese language and Confucius Institutes in Pakistan. Evidently, CPEC is a win-win situation for both states.

Kinza Arif is an intern at Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution. She is getting BSS in International Relations from Bahria University.

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