CPEC progress shows BRI viability

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the bellwether of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in evaluating the viability of the Chinese global infrastructure development strategy prior to its kick-off.

CPEC progress shows BRI viability

By Azhar Azam

CPEC Progress Shows BRI Viability.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the bellwether of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in evaluating the viability of the Chinese global infrastructure development strategy prior to its kick-off.

The initial prototype of Xi Jinping’s grand vision, now valued at US$62 billion, is one of the largest unilateral foreign direct investments (FDIs) from one nation to another, which gives an idea of the enormity of the transcontinental programme.

After closing the critical energy and infrastructure gaps in Pakistan, CPEC is entering the kairotic moment of the second phase, which will build the bedrock of the country’s economic rejuvenation through increased exports, job creation, industrialisation, technology transfer, agriculture upgrade and construction of special economic zones.

Since its launch, India has seen the broadening China-Pakistan economic and strategic ties with scepticism. The project also continues to be a target of a systematic disinformation campaign as some media reports claimed Beijing was slowly walking away from its financial promises or that the killing of coal miners across CPEC key routes in Balochistan had threatened China’s BRI in Pakistan.

Rejecting the baseless story about “rising indications” of its retreat, China clarified that CPEC was maintaining a positive momentum of development and there was no stop of construction, no layoffs and no withdrawal of workforce, even amid the pandemic, reaffirming that the magnitude of the project was being enhanced with the inclusion of agriculture, industry, science and technology, social economy and international cooperation.

The strong Chinese response and renewed commitments along novel media cooperation between the two sides and meetings on Covid-19 and poverty alleviation among regional countries, including Pakistan, refutes the press speculations and underscores that China is not only keen to fast-track the CPEC, but also intends to feed neoteric ideas into the project to upgrade Pakistan’s major economic sectors.

Pakistan seeks to revamp its colonial-era railway network and produce 60 per cent clean energy of the country’s overall electricity production. China — by agreeing to finance the ML-1 project and pouring huge investments in green power generation — is crucial for Pakistan to offset its railway quandary and growing climate challenges.

Chinese energy equipment and devices now match the Western standards and cost two-thirds of their prices. As Pakistan looks towards China to further lessen its reliance on expensive oil-based electricity, the all-weather ally is ready to share China’s experience and technology in biomass energy and assist Pakistan’s clean energy transition.

What’s more, Chinese FDI flows into Pakistan have risen from US$76.5 million to US$253.9 million in the first five months of fiscal year 2020-21. The staggering upturn in the middle of the coronavirus period shows China isn’t rolling back its investments or pledges. Claims made by some media outlets were wide of the mark.

Gwadar, the port city on the southwestern coast of Pakistan’s Balochistan, is hailed as the crown jewel of the CPEC. Last year, the Pakistani government unveiled the Gwadar Smart City Master Plan to develop it into an economic, trade and tourism hub of South Asia, with a per capita gross domestic product of US$15,000 — 10 times of its national average.

As Beijing and Islamabad expand the CPEC scope, terrorist attacks in Balochistan — killing a number of security personnel in Gwadar and other districts as well as taking lives of coal miners across CPEC key route — are trying to undermine the success of CPEC by obstructing Gwadar’s emergence into a world-class city with an economy of US$30 billion a year and up to 1.2 million high-paid jobs.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has no political ax to grind and singled out “India-backed terrorists” for the insurgent ambush that recently killed seven Pakistani troops in Harnai. On the brutal massacre of the labourers in March, Khan again lashed out at India over supporting Islamic State and spreading unrest in Pakistan.

The terrorist attacks warned of critical security implications for workers of foreign companies in Balochistan and vindicated Pakistan’s decision to fence off Gwadar to shield domestic and international workforce so that they could freely and actively deploy their professional skills for Gwadar’s transformation into one of the most modern city on the global map.

Some argue that the Gwadar fencing would intensify deprivation and marginalisation or restrict freedom of movement in Balochistan, ignoring that the current arrangement is temporary and being conducted in open, unpopulated areas. That means it will reduce checkpoints, easing their routine activities, while witnessing mega construction for boosting their level of affluence.

The provisional Gwadar fencing will also speed up the establishment of high-tech industries, mega shopping malls, luxury resorts, man-made islands and Pakistan’s largest international airport. These would provide the much-needed labour force participation and economic bustle in the city and province.

A vulnerable security situation can encumber trade and foreign investment. The fencing of Gwadar will bolster the provincial peace dynamics and encourage cautious foreign investors and tourists who have been hesitant to invest or please their scenic sense due to the continued strife in Balochistan.

Besides vigorous efforts to protect the CPEC from sabotage, Pakistan may also counter media propaganda and people’s anxieties about the Gwadar fencing through delivering benefits of the game-changing project to the folks in Balochistan, where poverty is still at its peak.

By accelerating work on development projects, the impoverished Balochs can be prevented from falling into the hands of insurgents.

Originally published at New straits times