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CPEC and its Impact on the Region

 By: Zaheer Ud Din Babar

unnamed (1)CPEC as a game changer has almost been a buzzword since the inception of this project. Both China and Pakistan are investing relentless efforts to finalize the project, thereby, to operationalize it as soon as possible as the port is believed to accrue immense economic dividends. Successful operationalization of Gwadar port would be a kismet-changer for both Beijing and Islamabad in the regional as well as global milieu. In this context, rivals of both the co-operating actors are moving heavens and the earth to hijack this project in order to squelch them from transforming the regional balance of power. Given the intense opposition from regional as well international actors and their combined attempts to sabotage the project, both China and Pakistan need to make more cautious arrangements to foil enemy designs.

Completion of the CPEC project would enhance in Pakistan’s regional importance. Pakistan underscores the significance of the project for regional connectivity and cooperation among the Central, West and South Asian countries; though China and Pakistan remain the prime beneficiaries of it. Regional actors, such as West as well as Central and South Asian states continue to suffer from economic strains. Regional organizations namely Economic Cooperation Organization & South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation have been emphasizing the need for consolidating trade and economic interdependence in the region. The majority of member states of these organizations constitute those who are underdeveloped and are entangled in socio-economic quagmire. Within the purview of such background, CPEC would confer enormous socio-economic boons for member states of these organizations.

Islamabad is straining its nerves to encourage regional participation and investments in the project. Such investments would expedite the completion of the port and would also have positive impact on the economies of the regional nations. This positive-sum-game would spur trade, economic interdependence and regional cooperation among the principle regional powers. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said on April 21, 2015: “It is a catalytic project that will help us combine the geo-economic streams of our countries. The corridor symbolizes our resolve to create a win-win partnership which threatens none but benefits all.” Frankly speaking, entire region would benefit from Cpec. The leadership of the neighboring states, except India, has also approved of the project as instrumental in enhancing regional cooperation and connectivity. Pakistan successfully conducted 13th ECO summit in Islamabad on March 1, 2017. The member-states’ participants endorsed the project and vowed to extend maximum cooperation to finalize it. They also expressed their confidence in the project and sanctioned the theme of the summit, that is, “connectivity for regional prosperity.” Realistically speaking, the ECO member countries direly need regional cooperation and connectivity in order to wriggle out of their socio-economic predicaments.

The major objective of the ECO is to develop communication and transport infrastructure so as to connect the member states with each other and the world outside. Interestingly, 7 member states out of 10 are landlocked. To this end, functioning of CPEC would provide the shortest sea routes to at least six member states of ECO. Apart from this, the project is also expected to encourage Eurasian trade. Sino-Pak joint endeavor is based on almost $46 billion. The principle aim of the joint-venture is to orchestrate a port whereby the promulgation of which would be catalyst in transforming the entire regional equation. The port holds a tremendous significance for the principle regional actors like, China, Afghanistan, Central Asia, West Asia as well as Eurasia. The operationalization of the CPEC would provide Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey access to Central Asian States such as Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan as well as to Russian Federation and Europe through China. Indubitably, the successful implementation of CPEC would accrue unprecedented economic dividends for the whole region.

Inter alia, the project is also aimed to develop energy and trade corridors and a network of rail and road linkages apart from sea routes. Successful finalization and functioning of the port is a harbinger of change and is expected to usher in an era of consistent socio-politico-economic stability and prosperity for the entire region, in particular, for China and Pakistan.

The writer is a student at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in The Balochistan Point on March 19, 2017

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