Has come a long way
The Chinese President Mr Xi Jingping is likely to visit Pakistan in the last week of this month and it is believed that he would inaugurate some of the projects envisaged to be built under the China-Pak Economic Corridor(CPEC), marking the commencement of a new era of geo-economic relations between the two countries that have the potential of throwing open infinite vistas of economic linkages and prosperity in the region and beyond, creating a win-win situation for China who is looking for expanding and consolidating its commercial interests and the resource-strapped Pakistan to tide over its economic woes and the energy crisis that has had a debilitating effect on its economic progress. The completion of the projects under CPEC apart from creating economic linkages and dependence between the countries of the region would also help in promoting regional peace by creating an ambience of commonality of interests.
Relations between Pakistan and China, which have withstood the vicissitudes of time and grown from strength to strength over the years, attained new heights with the singing of 19 agreements and MOUs between the two countries in Bejing in early November during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China on the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in the dialogue on “Strengthening Connectivity and Partnership”. The agreements mainly related to power generating projects and building of infrastructure under Pak-China Economic Corridor would attract a total investment of US$ 42 billion.
The envisaged power projects (both coal based and hydel) would add 10,400 MW of electricity to the system by 2017/18 on completion. Another 6,645 MW of early harvest project for energy are actively being considered. The Chinese have also promised to open green channel for facilitating quick release of funds for the implementation of the Chinese funded investment in Pakistan.
The implementation of these agreements and the materialisation of the Pak-China Economic Corridor would end power shortages in Pakistan, create one million new jobs and consequently usher in a new era of prosperity in Pakistan. The PML-N government which is the architect of this exponential enhancement in the economic and political ties with China, deserves unqualified accolades for its pragmatism and vision that characterises these new initiatives.
Both the countries have worked relentlessly together to neutralise the negative effects of the postponement of Chinese President’s visit to Pakistan in September 2014, due to the security situation created by the crass politics of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. That indicated the urgency and importance that both the countries attach to enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries and opening of new avenues for shared economic prosperity in the region. Pakistan badly needed the quick harvesting energy projects to tide over the energy crisis gripping the country and ensuring energy security for its future development.
The CPEC is not only restricted to energy projects. It is in fact mix basket of development projects pertaining to infrastructure, health and education. The infrastructure includes development of Gwadar Port and connecting it to China’s North Western region of Xinjiang through highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas over a distance of about 3,000 kms. It also envisages to develop an international airport at Gwadar. The completion of this infrastructure and network would undoubtedly trigger transformational changes in both the countries. Pakistan has already handed over the management of Gwadar Port to the Chinese. Both countries stand resolute in their determination to take this cooperation to its logical conclusion.
Unfortunately some elements are trying to make the CPEC controversial like the Kalabagh Dam by raising the bogey of change in the alignment of the route of the originally agreed road network. This is nothing but a myth and the government has repeatedly refuted this notion. It has also been repudiated by independent sources and observers. Another impression being created was that these projects were being built through loans from China. This is perhaps the most preposterous proposition by the opponents of the CPEC. The projects under CPEC represent direct Chinese investment in Pakistan and the agreements signed in this regard amply testify to this proposition.
The friendship and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China is underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Development of relations with China has been the corner stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. It was due to Pakistan’s alliance with the US and strong ties with China that enabled it to facilitate the end of China’s isolation. Pakistan has also been supporting China on all issues of importance and concern to the latter, especially those related to the question of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other sensitive matters such as human rights, a stance deeply appreciated by Chinese leaders.
China over the years has supported the Kashmir cause and extended liberal economic and military assistance to Pakistan. It has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of Karakoram Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila and Chashma Nuclear plants (III and IV) are the monuments of the ever-spiking bilateral ties. In the backdrop of US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regarded as a discriminatory act against it, China exhibited the strength of relations between the two countries by agreeing to help Pakistan in this area despite reservations of NSG and USA.
The new economic and strategic partnership forged with China represents a pragmatic and visionary approach that would put the two countries on a road to eternal friendship and cooperation dictated by unalterable geographical realities and economic and strategic compulsions. It also marks a departure from Pakistan’s perennial propensity to look up to the West for its security and economic needs, and rightly so. Pakistan belongs to South Asian region and its security and economic needs are inextricably linked to this region. The new narrative evolved by the present government in regards to Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and building strong linkages with the countries of the region, especially China, also fits well in the schemes of things at the global and regional level where China is poised to play a major role in determining the rules of the game on the chessboard of the world politics.