By Tariq Rizwan
Though, I know very little about the CPEC project in terms of statistical data and share of provinces, regions and other drawbacks. Indeed, the negative article of Dr Shabir Choudhary published in Asian News International (ANI) on 15 Dec 2016 has moved me to write some goods of the project as well. No doubt, he has highlighted some good points which may help in overcoming the risks of the project in future; giving more share to AJK and FATA adjoining the insurgency hit KP province but overall, his articles are extremely negative. He has tried to project himself as resident of Azad Jammu & Kashmir and a sympathizer of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). But in actuality, he has tried to present CPEC as a disastrous project for Pakistan in general due to 7% high interest rates of the cost or loan worth $45.6 billion in general and GB in particular. His claim is based on similar theme being propagated in Baluchistan’s context that it will change the local demography and affect the pollution free environment. He failed to appreciate that the landlocked GB will benefit a lot from the project. The project is likely to kick off economic activities in the area.
Dr Shabir Choudhary is probably looking at CPEC project with the Indian prism. We don’t know whether this man is existing in UK or not but his writings are perceived in Indian perspective. The RAW paid lobby is quite active abroad and mostly writing anti CPEC themes since the project’s inception with the aim to undermine the project. His write-ups seem to be an effort to distance Jammu & Kashmir or GB from Pakistan. Indeed, his positive criticism is being welcomed in Pakistan.
CPEC is not a new road rather it is an extension of the existing road network linking Gwadar with Kashgar via GB to transform it into an economic corridor, combining the warm waters with Western and eventually Eastern China under the latter’s One Road, One Belt (OBOR) policy. It is the up-gradation of existing infrastructure all along the route including industrial estate, energy resources, port facilities and hospitals etcetera.
China has made enormous advancement in the fields of capital reserves, industry and information technology. Beijing has the money, expertise and cheap labour. History has proved that China is the most sincere neighbor in Pakistan’s case and keen to see Pakistan progress as well. Hence, China is pushing its companies to collaborate with Pakistani government and companies to see the dream of CPEC materialize at the earliest. As a result, Chinese companies have now started gobbling up with private bankrupt mills and factories hoping to utilize the cheap assets themselves. So there is a win-win situation for both Beijing and Islamabad.
The only drawback seems to be economic influence that China will have in Pakistan which is tantamount to inviting Indian anger and people are a bit weary. But that is only a fear which can be checked. The anti-CPEC lobby is comparing the centuries old British East India Company and subsequent British colonialism in India. This is 21st century and people of Pakistan are quite aware of their rights. International economists and observers have already termed the project as a “game changer”. They do not see any economic influence of China as a bad thing. We would rather have the Chinese here than anyone else.
Pakistan is virgin territory and need badly the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). China Mobile’s first foreign investment has been operating in Pakistan since years. Chinese universities are offering scholarship to Pakistani students and they are running various educational programmes for Pakistanis. China is also building its largest embassy in the world in Islamabad due to the scale of what they have in mind for the region. Like Saudi Arabia and UAE, China is given preference in investments into the country which is why things would be much smoother for them than for anyone else.
The only problem that CPEC is facing is that Pakistan has so far not developed a broad based partnership with the neighboring countries. For the CPEC to seed future Chinese investment, Pakistan has to develop a more organic strategy to ensure internal security. No influx of capital is possible without peace and security. Pakistan has to shift some more capital for the early completion the linked projects. Pakistan and China have to develop some more understanding in the fields of culture, language, information technology etcetera to make their strategic partnership a meaningful one. Pakistan needs to overcome all possible bureaucratic hurdles and undertake economic and legal reforms to fully realize the benefits of CPEC without wasting any time. At the movement, China is not paying due importance to economic importance of CPEC as China has failed to remove the Indian hurdle for the time being. The China – Pakistan strategic partnership is damaging Pakistan relations with neighboring India and Afghanistan. It is feared that Pakistan will be economically overburdened burdened with CPEC. China may help improving Pakistan relations as well as help in installing coal plants in Pakistan. The latter may convince China not to charge interest on any money that is paid directly to Chinese contractors.
As projected by Dr Shabir Choudhry, CPEC is not a risky game changer. His classical “googly” can be transformed into a lovely hit to enable the impoverished region see the day of development and prosperity. No one will be allowed to look at CPEC with any Indian, regional, religious or any other dark prism which are emotionally more charged.
The problems of economic cost which Pakistan is supposed to pay back in future like higher interest, giving share to deprived areas like GB, AJK, FATA as pointed by the writer may be considered by the government of Pakistan to enable the populace of these areas bear the fruits of the project.
The writer is a freelance journalist