If you believe that China-Pakistan economic corridor (or CPEC as it is more commonly known) is just a superhighway than perhaps you face a serious dearth of knowledge for far from this not only will CPEC take Pak-China partnership to new heights but make facilitation of trade the backbone of Pakistan’s future foreign and economic policy.
China today is a TRADE DEPENDANT ECONOMY. With 70% of Chinese expected to climb the economic ladder and become part of the country’s middle class (possessing high purchasing power) by 2030; this factor alone will make the trade with China (a country of one and a half billion people) indispensable for all global economies. Undoubtedly China of tomorrow is the USA of today however at least four times bigger in size.
For Europe, Middle East, and Africa, CPEC provides the most reliable, cost effective and fast overland trade route to China. For China and all these three major economic hubs of the world, CPEC reduces financial, physical and strategic costs of trading with each other.
Similarly, for Russia and the landlocked Central Asian states too, CPEC makes the Indian Ocean accessible to them and allows them to trade through it.
Following are the reasons why CPEC can make Pakistan the hub of human civilization:
- Far from being a lost cause, Pakistan is one of the most important economic hopes of the world.
Pakistan has the unique ability to connect the massive economies of Russia, Central Asia, Iran, SAARC, China, EU and Africa together thereby becoming the central point of a highly integrated global economy.
- As trade with China (the largest market in the world) becomes extremely important for all major economies, more and more countries will try to utilize the infrastructural connectivity of CPEC to connect with China and landlocked but resource-rich Central Asia.
The cheapest way to access Central Asia is through Pakistan. According to many global analysts, Central Asia might become the world’s next principal supplier of oil after the Middle East.
Thus not only can Pakistan become China’s most important gateway to the world but other countries too might soon be teeming for economic partnership with Pakistan.
- Pakistan’s cheap labour, vast natural resources and proximity to two of the most resource-rich regions of the world (the Middle East and Central Asia) can make Pakistan not only an ideal place for investment in the future but further help her to fast develop a large manufacturing base taking advantage of these factors; elevating the country’s status to a high-income economy.
More importantly by 2030 over a quarter of the global adult population will be living in South Asia. With the population in China aging and becoming ever more expensive, Pakistan can use this factor to not only attract large-scale foreign investment but also become the next global manufacturing hub.
Moreover, the country should take advantage of her strategic location to negotiate better trade deals with the likes of EU, GCC and other economies.
Only if these factors are utilized properly than does Pakistan has the ability to rapidly emerge as an economic giant on the global map.
- China needs a reliable, safe and fast access to fuel supply which Pakistan can provide. Not only can oil and gas pipelines be built from Iran and other countries in the Middle East through Pakistan but Pakistan being an old and reliable ally of China can be depended upon to safeguard China’s fuel supply from the likes of India and USA in times of war.
Similarly, the landlocked Central Asian countries and Russia too can use CPEC to export their massive oil, gas, mineral reserves and other exports.
Many believe after the Middle East, Central Asia will become the principal global oil supplier.
This way Pakistan can truly realize its potential to become the global energy conduit or future Pipelinestan as many in the oil industry have already begun to call it.
- Pakistan has a special place in the Muslim world and can emerge as the future leader of the Muslim world. Not only has it remained neutral in the recent sectarian wars in the Middle East but has also helped to bridge the gap between Iran and the wider Sunni world.
This coupled with the fact that Pakistan has the second largest population of Shia Muslims after Iran makes Pakistan’s place as central in the Muslim world.
It is due to these reasons that China has in the past viewed Pakistan as its opening to the Muslim world. Not only China but other countries like Russia too view better relations with Pakistan as essential to good relations with the wider Ummah.
With the interests of so many different nations converging in Pakistan, Pakistan’s status can rise from a weak regional power to a powerful country with global influence. Even nations like the USA who do not need to trade through Pakistan with China, need to go through Pakistan to access the landlocked Central Asia.
And yes all this is possible. All we need is the will to fix ourselves and ACT.
Taking advantage of these factors, Pakistan can make herself the central point of global trade, commerce, and geopolitics. However, the main bottlenecks to this project materializing could be the following:
1. Pakistan’s internal stability and terrorism problem: Unless and until Pakistan gets its house in order, no one not even Pakistanis themselves will be ready to invest in Pakistan.
The success of Counterterrorism operations will hopefully correct the terrorism problem but what is even more important is to address the root cause of the problem which is the intolerance being preached across the madrassas in the country
2. The Pakistani state needs an urgent PR campaign to correct her global image problem. Having been labeled as a global sponsor of terrorism for almost two decades now Pakistan urgently and perhaps desperately needs to showcase to the world its rich culture, economic potential and the fact that 99% of Pakistanis are an extremely polite, friendly, tolerant and a peaceful lot.
3. Administrative reforms are urgently required to correct the administrative malaise plaguing the country. Surprisingly the vast majority of problems facing Pakistan today are due to the incompetence of Pakistani leadership and the rot in the country’s administrative machinery.
Bureaucratic red tape and corruption are two of the biggest hurdles to business and economic growth and for the country to progress and economy to grow, urgent administrative and economic reforms are needed.
4. JEALOUS NEIGHBOUR INDIA: Or Rather Proxy wars by India. It’s no secret that India is using its base in Afghanistan to stir up trouble in Pakistan. Not only is it backing and funding anti-Pakistan terrorist groups from Afghanistan but is also sponsoring anti-Pakistan propaganda globally.
In this endeavor, India might also have been joined by our so called long term ally, USA, for CPEC benefits China and Pakistan the most.
And for many in Washington unfortunately, China’s gain is America’s loss just like for many in Delhi, Pakistan’s gain is India’s loss.
It is due to this reason that I never mentioned India in the above article though India too can use Pakistani infrastructure to trade with Central Asia and the Middle East.
Only God knows whether this project would actually become fully operational or not but the Pakistani state has beaten back terrorists lately, largely wiping them off from the country internally and Pakistan today is stronger than ever.
Perhaps sealing the border with Afghanistan could be the next step for if Afghanistan is used by our enemies to destabilize us than the Pakistani state does possess every right to protect itself.
Pakistan can in the future host trade shows in the strategic port of Gwadar or in the capital city of Islamabad to encourage other countries to use the CPEC route and invest in Pakistan.
The present UN body according to many global analysts might not survive the Trump era; And because the interests of so many countries are converging in Pakistan; Afterwards these trade shows can be expanded to set up a UN like body to resolve global disputes and encourage multilateral dialogue on global issues facing humanity; further cementing Pakistan’s central place in the world.
Always remember that China-Pakistan economic corridor is a God sent opportunity to Pakistan to change her fortunes forever.