The China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor is perceived as a golden bilateral opportunity for both participant nations. The Chinese investments in the projects are expected to bear low hanging fruits for the Pakistani economy, whereas Pakistan is China’s gateway to the West as well as a safe alternative for its politically threatened maritime trade route.
While some glistening opportunities for Pakistan lie in the development of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor, some unaddressed speculations about its implications persist.
Silver Linings Of The Enterprise
* Economic Development
Probably the most advertised and politically played-on facets of the CPEC are the promised economic, commercial and industrial advancements. With an anticipated large influx of foreign investments, the private sector in Pakistan is expected to receive business incentives, a boost in the commercial activities, and augmented foreign reserves, consequently benefiting all the stakeholders involved.
Subsequently, industrialization will create work opportunities for a large portion of the unemployed Pakistani population. This serves to translate the fiscal burden in to a social, developmental and monetary drive.
* Promotes Security in The Region
Being an ambitiously large venture, the CPEC imposes colossal responsibilities on the Pakistani leadership. It is duly expected of the government to ensure stability within the region and take adequate security measures towards the projects.
The private sector in Pakistan is likely to receive more business opportunities and play an active role in the effective functioning of the component infrastructural, energy and transportation projects of the enterprise. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t only provide targeted benefits to the already affluent, but is also a realistic medium of employment for those subject to poverty in the country. Which in foresight, is also beneficial to the State, because a higher employment rate suggests a lower crime rate. In summation, a strong governing body coupled with an advanced industrial capacity is likely to direct the political focus towards identifying security solutions for domestic issues as well as international terrorism.
* Regional Integration
The China-Pakistan corollary of the BRI, is a brick in the structure of globalization. It not only improves the exclusive political relations between States but also creates sentiments of solidarity between developed and developing nations. This in turn, strengthens the region and puts forward a united front which improves its global image and impedes chances of external political hostility.
* Improved Global Image
Countries prospering through trade and economic activities emanate a positive international outlook; portraying them as safe grounds for investment and profitable business opportunities. The signatory nations are viewed as agreeable to deal with subsequently providing all the more incentive to invest in the enterprise. Similarly, in the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor, the Chinese interest in the developing Pakistan highlights the latter’s potential as a growing economy.
* Stabilized International Relations
Trade agreements between countries are the foundation of progressive bilateral relations. These ensue cordial international treaties, financial backing in times of distress, favours of military deployments,
complimented with a strong integrated image of the countries involved.
* Geo-Politically Significant
The China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor extends auxiliary benefits to the surrounding South Asian countries, especially landlocked States like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Through advanced infrastructural development, which is in symmetry with its fundamental vision, CPEC will promote interconnectivity in the South Asia. Due to which not only will trade commence through an integrated market of two billion people it will also stimulate regional growth and stability.
The Critics’ Concerns
While it is an optimistic approach to focus on the bright side of things, it does not bode well to do so when an entire country is at stake. It is also unnatural and suspicious if the downsides, as minor as they may be, are portrayed as if to not exist at all. Similarly, there are certain reservations associated with the development of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor which are still a subject of debate as potential qualms for Pakistan.
* Increased Dependency
It is no doubt that several economic benefits would accrue for Pakistan from the development of CPEC. However, this progress stems from Chinese aid, investments, and loans. Which is why one is compelled to wonder as to what happens if Pakistan fails to repay its debt? This has raised some eyebrows upon the matter, wondering if there are any undisclosed strings attached with the project. Whether or not Pakistan will have any say in the manner of running the projects in order to acquire profits is a tale only time will tell.
* Long Term Implementation
The entirety of the CPEC is undoubtedly colossal. Naturally, these are to take a long time to reach completion irrespective of the
administrative efforts to expedite their development. Although some of these energy producing power projects are already functioning, some of the infrastructural enterprises haven’t even exceeded the ground-breaking stage. It can therefore be deciphered, that these ventures require relentless efforts that withstand both domestic and international political hurdles.
Where these predicaments have possible solutions there are certain aspects to the enterprise which may have strings attached to them and diminish the clarity as well as the transparency of the venture, including some of the following:
* Political Vulnerability
Although China is a firm advocate of it and quite vocal about their “Invest not Invade” policy, history narrates otherwise. Very recently, the Sri-Lankan government had to hand over an entire functioning port to China on a century long lease after being unable to pay a massive pile of debt which is now also referred to as China’s “debt trap”. The primary concern upon the matter is whether Pakistan will also meet the same fate as Sri-Lanka in case it is unable to repay China’s debt?
* Pakistan’s Political And Social Governance Capabilities Tested
Ever since it has risen on the world map, Pakistan has been notorious for its political instability. It has been subjected to a record number of political usurpations greatly damaging the country’s reputation. Even today, transfer of power following every election is a tense process for the State. Which is why the Khan administration is expected to walk in the path set by the previous government as far as the Sino-Pak relations are concerned.
* Geo-Politics and Traditional Hostilities
Geo-political issues have always been a prime hurdle in the Indo-Pak region. Religious differences and political condescendence have been known to cloud State-interests. Similarly, now CPEC is viewed as
more of a political strategy than an economic project. An empowered Pakistan with Chinese backing may appear as a potential threat to its neighbours.
Of late, Saudi involvement in the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor has ruffled some feathers. The sectarian conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran are likely to affect Pakistan’s international relations which may consequently take a toll on mutual economic growth.
* Potential Environmental Hazards
The majority of the energy projects included in the CPEC are powered by coal. An existing example of a city producing energy through coal is Beijing, where breathing without a face mask is considered as a health hazard. Even still, Pakistan is eager to construct non-renewable energy power projects taking solace in the fact that adequate safety measures are being taken to prevent any such environmental damages.
Presently, the CPEC is a highly debated issue of global significance. While some are firm advocates of it others foresee a possible Chinese invasion, despite of China’s repetitive reassurance that neither is this a possibility nor will any debt traps originate from it. Although conflicted, there are undeniable economic benefits which may be reaped from the effective functioning of the CPEC but whether or not the speculations prove right is to be unravelled with time.