Transport, trade and industry play a vital role in the uplifting of a country. Throughout the history of mankind, these factors have been crucial for the development of societies. Transportation and road linkages improve mobility, community health, fuel efficiency, and commuters’ productivity. Trade, on the other hand, provides opportunities to native people by improving productivity and accelerating growth rate and innovation. It also serves lower-income households well by offering services and products at a reasonable rate to them. Similarly, industry results in higher income for the local populace as it reduces cost of production and creates prospects of innovation. Thus, all these three factors are fundamental to the economy of particularly developing states like Pakistan.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one such mega project which can change the destiny of Pakistan. As the biggest development plan of the region, it offers immense avenues of growth in socioeconomic sectors by enhancing international trade, building efficient transport systems and promoting industrialization. These benefits are not only limited to China and Pakistan but also extend to neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asian states, etc. thereby, increasing regional connectivity.

CPEC has the potential to boost socio-economic development greatly by emphasizing on poverty alleviation, education, medical treatment, water supply, vocational training. The framework of industrial cooperation, financial cooperation and agricultural cooperation incorporates the expansion of transport infrastructure, energy hub/flows, logistic hub/flows, trade and commerce within Pakistan. Moreover, tourism specifically coastal tourism and people-to-people contact would give rise to peace, harmonization and integration of civilizations. Diverse investment opportunities for overseas Pakistanis, multinational corporations and international stakeholders make China-Pakistan Economic Corridor a unique venture of sustainable development.

However, since its inception, CPEC faces malicious campaigns and propaganda. It has been regarded as a scheme to counter American influence in the region. The speculations that China has hidden malevolent intentions of dominance in designing and implementing the CPEC framework gave rise to doubts in the hearts of the Pakistani people. Most of these propagandas originate from our neighbouring state, India, who views progress and prosperity of Pakistan as threat to its sovereignty.

Nevertheless, Foreign Office of Pakistan has vehemently and categorically denied these claims as baseless. India often makes such statements to equate projects and activities of CPEC with those of its illegal occupation, expansion, and human rights abuse in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. These statements are then repeated continually in television shows and spread virally on social media via thousands of fake accounts. The result is the persistent propaganda containing false and misleading assertions leading to unrest in the areas where the work of CPEC is in progress.

Apart from Indian propaganda, the Western world is also apprehensive of this corridor. It is viewed as an alternative to the US alliance with Pakistan. The fact that CPEC is not an aid and assistance program wipes out the assumptions of replacing any alliance or partnership. It is a program of equal partnership focusing on the promotion of bilateral ties between the partnering countries. In addition to this, a sovereign state is free to build international relations with any country as per the Treaty of Westphalia. Therefore, the recent reports about IMF asking for the review of CPEC projects is an external interference in the matters of Pakistan and such leverages should not be provided to any international organization at any cost.

CPEC, if concluded successfully, is one of the major ways for Pakistan to get out of IMF debt and start a journey of prosperity and sustainability, which requires smooth and unhindered execution of all development plans. To achieve this target, a strong and transparent mechanism should be assembled to report on the progress of existing projects and the planning of new ones. This mechanism should also integrate strategies and tactics to counter propaganda and malicious campaigns against CPEC. Both of these steps will build the trust in the Pakistani nation in CPEC developments and remove apprehensions of local and international stakeholders about the corridor.

UMER INAM,

Lahore.