CPEC decade – A voyage to new development heights

QUETTA  -  Known as the ‘iron brothers,’ Pak­istan and China resolutely rein­forced their commitment to bol­stering regional connectivity and economic prosperity through a decade-long struggle to elevate China Pakistan Economic Cor­ridor (CPEC) to unprecedented levels. It was ten years back, when two all-weather friends solidified their commitment by signing a multibillion-dollar CPEC Framework Agreement, marking a significant milestone in their collaborative efforts. 

China boldly stepped forward, when other countries hesitated to invest in Pakistan, pledging an initial investment of US$46 billion that later expanded to a substantial sum of US$62 billion. Now the two countries are cel­ebrating 10 years of undeterred bilateral cooperation with a re­newed pledge to move forward at a faster pace towards the CPEC’s ultimate destination of regional progress and prosper­ity. On July 11, a meeting of the 12th (Special) Joint Coopera­tion Committee (JCC) was held in Beijing, co-chaired by Minis­ter for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Professor Ahsan Iqbal and Vice Chairman, National Development and Re­form Commission (NDRC) China, Cong Liang. During the meeting, the minister said the CPEC was a remarkable endeavor that sym­bolized the deep-rooted ties be­tween China and Pakistan.

“It has fostered connectivity, enhanced trade and opened up new avenues for shared prosper­ity,” Ahsan Iqbal said. “CPEC is the topmost priority of Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Co­operative Partnership as these avenues provided an opportu­nity to consolidate successes and enhance future cooperation.”

He recalled that monumental event when visionary leaders President Xi and Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had launched this proj­ect aimed at transforming the region’s economic landscape. According to a senior official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the CPEC projects, under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), were flourishing all across Pakistan and had attracted US$25.4 bil­lion in direct investment from China during the last 10 years.

“After ten years of develop­ment, a “1+4” cooperation lay­out has been formed, with the CPEC at the centre and Gwadar Port, transport infrastructure, energy and industrial coopera­tion being the four key areas,” the official said.

The CPEC framework has creat­ed 192,000 jobs, producing 6,000 megawatts of electric power, building 510 kilometers of high­ways and adding 886 kilometers to the core national transmission network, he added. The CPEC has made a tangible contribution to Pakistan’s development and con­nectivity in the region. China and Pakistan have also explored new areas for cooperation under the CPEC framework by focusing ar­eas like agriculture, science and technology, telecommunication and people’s well-being.

“China stands ready to work with Pakistan to build on the past achievements and follow the guidance of the important common understandings be­tween leaders of the two coun­tries on promoting high-quality development of CPEC to boost the development of China and Pakistan and the region and bring more benefits to people of all countries,” the official said.

Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, during a recent meeting with Chinese Charge d’affaires Pang Chunxue has also reiterated that as ‘Iron Brothers’ and old friends, Pakistan and China always stood firm against all odds and enjoyed unflinch­ing bilateral support on issues of mutual concern.

Noting the upward trajectory in Pakistan-China ties and eco­nomic and financial cooperation, the Prime Minister eulogized China’s support for Pakistan’s economic stability and expressed a firm commitment to further strengthen the relationship be­tween the two countries under the rubric of the Global Develop­ment Initiative and CPEC.

“Implementing multi-billion-dollar development projects un­der the CPEC has brought socio-economic benefits to Pakistan and helped our country progress in the region and beyond,” the Prime Minister said addressing a ceremony to mark a decade of the signing of CPEC. It is worth mentioning that during the last fiscal year, projects to supply gas to CPEC’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been com­pleted. Besides the financial year 2022-23, over 15 mega projects related to the develop­ment of Gwadar deep seaport, an ultimate destination of the CPEC, had been completed.

The completed mega projects include a 300 MW coal power plant, 2000 boat engines, Khuz­dar to Panjgur transmission line, Gwadar International Air­port, Pak-China Technology In­stitute, Gwadar Hospital, Smart Port and certain other projects. The construction of a modern hospital in Gwadar would en­sure the best healthcare facili­ties for the local people.

The CPEC project made re­markable progress in its first phase (2015-2020), espe­cially in the early harvest pe­riod (2013-18) whereby several mega projects have been com­pleted including KKH Phase-II (Havelian-Thakot Section).

The second phase (2021-25) with a focus on industrializa­tion, agriculture modernization, socio-economic development and cooperation in Science and Information Technologies (SITs) has already taken off aims at reaping the dividends of invest­ment made in energy and trans­port infrastructure.

However, other avenues of cooperation defined in the CPEC-Long-Term Plan (2015-30) are being opened to prog­ress tourism, mines and min­erals and petroleum sectors in the second phase.

As the CPEC moves closer to fruition, its positive impact will extend beyond the borders of China and Pakistan. The project holds the potential to transform the entire region, fostering eco­nomic growth and creating new opportunities for Iran, Afghani­stan, Central Asian Republics, and beyond. The CPEC decade stands as a testament to the power of cooperation and the “iron brothers” determination to forge a path towards shared progress and prosperity.

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