CPEC: Stay the course

By Masood Khan

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is on track. To recap, the CPEC has 1+4 components – the Corridor itself plus the Gwadar Port, infrastructure development, energy and industrial cooperation. The mega-project is being implemented under the watch of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) comprising China’s National Development Reform Commission and Pakistan’s Planning, Development and Reforms Ministry. The top leadership of the countries has the responsibility of close and constant oversight of all the projects under CPEC.
The Chinese side has emphasized the following underlying principles: scientific planning; incremental implementationn consensus building; mutual benefit; win-win outcome; an ensuring quality and safety. The Pakistani side is collaborating with China to pursue the goals of CPEC within the framework of these principles.
Gwadar is being built as a state of the art, modern port by expanding its multipurpose terminal and constructing breakwaters and dredging. It is being shaped into a smart, vibrant city. Work on a tax free industrial zone has started, which includes a 500MW energy plant. East Bay Expressway and an international airport are under construction. Schools and a vocational training institute are being opened; hospitals being upgraded.
On the Karakoram Highway, work on the Havelian-Thakot section has started. A feasibility study has been done for the Raikot-Thakot section. A contract for the Sukhar-Multan motorway has been signed. The work on the Western route is passing through Balochistan in full swing under the auspices of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO).
Within CPEC, there is major emphasis on railway up-gradation from Karachi to Peshawar, with the objective to lay and overhaul tracks, enhance speed, set up a dry port at Havelian, and train railways personnel.
Early harvest energy projects that are to be completed by 2020 include two hydro power projects, seven coal-fired plants, one solar park, four wind farms, an two transmission lines. By Pakistani standards, this would be exponential growth and contribute approximately 10,400MW to our national power grid.
In the realm of industrial development, work on a 260-hectare Free Zone in Gwadar has begun, as mentioned earlier; and the Haier Industrial Park will enter its second phase. In addition, so far, some 19 sites have been identified for industrial development in Balochistan (7), KP (8), Sindh (3), and ICT(1).
Other projects in the pipeline are an optical fiber link across the Pakistan-China border, a gas pipeline from Gwadar to Nawab Shah, and an LNG terminal at Gwadar. The Orange Metro Line in Lahore is being completed.
The specificity and substantiality of the projects under CPEC that I have highlighted are meant to give a sense of economic development activity that is taking place right now in Pakistan. This is unprecedented in recent decades and reminds us of the hectic pace of the first and second five year plans of the late 1950s and early 1960s, accomplished with the help of the United States and the international financial institutions. But the volume of the multi-dimensional development this time, compared to the 1960s, is much higher. The $46 billion being pumped into Pakistan’s economy is the seed money which will act as a force multiplier for overall growth, trade and investment. The CPEC will benefit Pakistan, China and other countries of the region and therefore the ultimate volume of growth stimulated by this mega-project would be much higher than we can imagine. Its volume may well exceed the much vaunted Marshall Plan, though the two are not strictly analogous.
What is more, the CPEC is creating new jobs and thus would put food on the table and a shelter on the heads of many Pakistani households, some of which are the most indigent and marginalized. I am told that since last year some 10,000 new jobs have been created in Pakistan by CPEC and this is just the beginning. And now the Pakistani work force at CPEC projects outnumbers Chinese workers and managers.
Among the political parties, there is a consensus across the board that CPEC is vital for Pakistan and they would work together and with China to make it successful. The initial misgivings are giving way to deeper understanding and systematic operations of the project. The armed forces are supporting the civilian government in the implementation of the projects and have vowed to give full security cover and not allow any country or entity to undermine CPEC. India has made known its opposition to the project on flimsy grounds. It would have objected to a similar project, even if it had been conceived without the participation of Gilgit-Baltistan or even if it had been offered by any country other than China. India wants Pakistan’s strategic isolation and economic strangulation, its periodic and specious diplomatese of good intentions towards Pakistan notwithstanding. We should brush aside Indian objections and stay the course and in the meantime be vigilant about Indian espionage and subversive activities in Gwadar, Balochistan, Karachi, FATA and major cities of Pakistan. Lowering our guard will be a fatal mistake. Our talking point to India should be that CPEC, once completed, will also benefit them.
The US says that it supports CPEC; and so do the European Union counties who have shown keenness to join in, in due course, and be part of this historic initiative. Let’s take advantage of their stated goodwill so that, as we go along, we become a catalyst for building bridges between East Asia, West Asia, Africa and Europe. We would continue to need foreign market for our products as well as the merchandize that would pass through our territory. We would also need to benefit from the scientific and technological knowhow and economic expertise of the West. Let’s tap into it for CPEC and for our national development. No corridor was ever built to create silos and isolated pockets. CPEC also requires a review and revision of our foreign policy.
Accountability is a must; but so is trust-building and win-win cooperation. As we eliminate other risks – security, terrorism, daunting geographical terrain, economic compatibility – we should recognize the enemy within, the dark hand, that works hard to pit state institutions against each other and spreads wild rumours about China, CPEC, and the failure of CPEC. We are succeeding and we will continue to succeed but quashing such falsehoods is also a national responsibility.
(The writer is Director General Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and a former Ambassador to China and the United Nations.)