ASIABUSINESSOPINION

CPEC: trick or treat?

By Syed Nasir Hassan

Earlier to modern world the nations which upheld the power to subjugate others used to take nudge into considerably week nations in order to conquer them. The entire colonization of the world depicted a fine example of this art. Economies of the state were spiraled in a distinct order that it was elusive for the victim to untether from the colonial power. The modern nations in sub-continent encountered the same curse as both Pakistan and India were once colonies of British Empire. The British Raj in Indian Sub-Continent chose the same hegemonic design to vanquish by paralyzing the local economy and ultimately the whole continent was bestowed to them.

The contemporary age defies every notion which seizes someone’s sovereignty through any means though there might be exceptions. Hegemonic belief system has prevailed as there are still states which are keen to take the command. The new hegemonic designs no longer include the direct confrontation through any means.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is an offshoot of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The people on both sides of the border have anticipated that there will be prosperity once it reaches its final stages. The speculations against this chivalrous project are there too. Project is also often related to the previous colonial hegemonic designs and is called as a threat to Pakistani identity. But the main concern is, are such initiatives by China or particularly CPEC is same old hegemonic design which were used by colonial powers to rule?

Conceived in 2013 and became viable in 2015, the project has brought enormous sums of investment. Not just this, the project also promoted the investing climate in Pakistan, at a time when the state of Pakistan was isolated from the international happenings. It was China and its vision of interconnectivity put Pakistan into light.  Originally valued at USD 46 billion to new unofficial figure of USD 62 billion, there is something beneficial in it which has made CPEC persistent. 

CPEC delivered the socio-economic opportunities in the suburb and urban areas. The Global Times reported that CEPC is aiming to provide 2,320,000 jobs till 2018. Various estimates projected that the project aims to create around 400,000-700,000 jobs during the period of 2015-2030. The project itself is self-sufficient to elevate the standards of living of the working and under-privilege segment of the society. While in colonial times there were only developments for the better and efficient transportation of the goods for the trade which were directly benefitting the colonial empire rather than the social fabric. The local labor was only used for exploitation during colonial times whereas CPEC include vast profile of jobs for locals including professional, technical, administrative and skilled based jobs.  Another fact which negates the idea that CPEC is a colonial instrument is that the debt which is due on the Pakistani government is only USD 6 billion including interest in soft loans and the rest is foreign direct investment and grants.

Route of CPEC is more likely to be a path to prosperity. The economic ties of Pakistan with China will not only help Pakistan’s economy but also Pakistan’s stature in the international community. It is not to be misunderstood that development at the time of colonial powers was only for the elites rather than the local community while in contrast to CPEC, it is giving ease to the very lower division of the society. 

There has been speculations and claims that CPEC will be another East India Company and it will shatter Pakistani identity and also will cause harm to the socio economic fabric of the country. Moreover it was also established by the antagonistic forces that China will one day take control of the Pakistani territory.In June 2018, Economic Times, an Indian tabloid, reported that a Netherland-based think tank has heavily criticized that CPEC is an unfair deal for Islamabad and eventually China will make Pakistan its colony. It is not to be forgotten that both the countries in this project are independent and sovereign. There is no need to scrutinize the whole project and calling it a big mistake there might be contradictions with some of the chapters of the project but as a whole the project holds great deal for Pakistan and China as well. It is up to the higher authorities to extract the maximum out of the project and prove it to be beneficial for the country and a “Game changer” for the world’s political dynamics.

Syed Nasir Hassan is a Research Associate at Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR). He is a student of Conflict & Peace Studies.

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