By Sadia Kazmi
CPEC is essentially a project aiming at development through energy generation, highway, roads, railways, and port infrastructure eventually enhancing economic connections between China and Pakistan. Even though the project has been delivering well on its objectives and has been well appreciated within the policy and local circles of both China and Pakistan but it doesn’t come without certain unavoidable challenges. For instance, the very concern about the security and stability of Pakistan as well as the whole region raises genuine question marks on the potential and ultimate utility of the CPEC. Unless the peace and stability is guaranteed, the dream of development might not be fully materialized.
China on its part believes that development through economic ventures is a reliable recipe for the overall stability and prosperity of not just Pakistan but for China as well. CPEC allows the two to cooperate in a number of areas including the security sector, be it the energy security, economic security or a more traditional aspect of security of the masses of the two states. All these aspects are seen as closely interlinked and the cooperation in one area is believed to bring positive results for all the interconnected sectors. The belief is strong that the economic progress strengthens the internal security and stability. This is one of the reasons why the CPEC encompasses wide range of developmental projects and invests in infrastructure, energy generation through oil and gas pipelines, and establishment of industrial zones. China also pins hope that the promised stability will flow into the western part of China especially Xinjiang as well through effective and timely materialization of CPEC and all the projects envisaged under it.
Pakistan on its part also believes that CPEC has come as a source of great relief for its dwindling economy and holds great strategic significance for Pakistan. There is a strong commitment on Pakistan side to make it into a success story at all cost. Pakistan’s Vision 2025 is supplemented by the objectives of CPEC wherein it plans to move from a lower middle income nation to become an upper middle income nation by 2025. One sure way of achieving this dream is by inviting as much FDI as possible. The widespread problem of unemployment is also hoped to be address as the CPEC promises to bring sufficient employment opportunities for local population and skilled youth.
But there are severe challenges facing the CPEC and these objectives. The very project although making satisfactory progress, is embroiled controversies. There are concerns that China stands to benefit more from it that Pakistan, issues regarding debt accumulation on Pakistan are also blow out of proportion, skepticism prevail regarding distribution and prioritization of projects among the provinces, and a more relevant worry about the disruption of policy commitment with the change of government in Pakistan after elections. Usually the policies and promises of previous governments are stalled and over ruled by the succeeding governments for their own vested interests. China fears that any such disruption might lead to a setback in the smooth progress of the CPEC. However, one can be certain that most of these fears are unfounded. In fact, the Chinese Ambassador has already paid a visit to the Prime Minister elect Imran Khan and has expressed satisfaction over the assurances given regarding the continued and unhindered commitment on the CPEC. China has even agreed to further offer $2 billion in loans to Pakistan. Which is reflective of China’s confidence and faith in Pakistan when no other country has ever brought in such investment. This is duly acknowledged by Pakistan as well. However, there is also a concern that the ultimately Pakistan might be pulled into a debt trap in view of the fact that the loan is ultimately repaid with interest and Pakistan hardly has meager foreign reserves. However, this has been clarified by the officials on both sides by ensuring that a steady economic growth owing to the CPEC will help Pakistan overcome these issues and repayment of loans wouldn’t be a problem then.
Nevertheless, China and Pakistan regard the CPEC as a tool that possesses the potential to bring out political stability through economic integration. The respective national development policies have accommodated CPEC high on the priority list. Even though both the states have already been enjoying robust political and military relations, but this multifaceted economic development venture brings hope for massive benefits with win-win outcome for the two.