Defending CPEC

This is not the first time that Pakistan’s Foreign Office has had to defend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) against attacks from countries and international bodies alike, which view China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative as a strategic threat. As articulated in several official documents, the United States’ Indo-Pacific policy is highly critical of CPEC and OBOR as a whole, and the US has made India its primary strategic partner in the region to counter Chinese plans. This is evidenced by the many defence and economic agreements between the US and India, including LEMOA, BECA, COMCASA, STA 1, NSG and FATF memberships and sale of aircraft carriers, submarines, multitask helicopters, drones and so on.

This excessive leverage to India has been provided to contain China’s peaceful rise and to discourage Pakistan from implementing CPEC. One way that the American fear of isolation and losing hegemonic power in the region manifests itself is through attacking the economic merits of CPEC and OBOR. This is why terms like “predatory economics” are thrown around freely to dissuade countries from engaging with what is a transformational project for many. CPEC will help Pakistan fulfil its energy needs, create employment opportunities with 400,000 to 700,000 direct jobs, enable infrastructure development and skill development, bring Chinese investment into Pakistani industry, agriculture and services sectors, relocate Chinese sunset industries into our country and allow it to become a part of the global supply chain. Finally, Pakistan may yet realise its incredible potential as a transit economy with the development of Gwadar port and links to Afghanistan, Russia and Central Asia.

That being said, Pakistan can only benefit from CPEC by adopting the correct energy, industrial, trade, financial and foreign exchange policies. Perhaps a CPEC Ministry could be set up to ensure transparency at each step and effective implementation of national policy. The existing CPEC Authority could be made more vibrant. Institutional capacity enhancement of FBR, IRS, Planning Commission, WAPRA, NEPRA and other bodies will also help immensely. If this is to be done, and it must be, it should be done right.

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