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CPEC: An element of national power?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is by far one of the most ambitious and expensive components of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The economic corridor, a mix of transportation and energy infrastructure projects at an estimated cost of $60 billion, has been implemented with full dedication and support from the Chinese government since

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Almost every state aspires to bolster its national power. All available assets are employed to expand the national power base and project power in global politics. Along with multiple power elements, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor adds a new pivotal dimension to Pakistan’s national power. CPEC equips Pakistan with credible leverage on the external front, enhancing its maneuvering capability in regional and global politics.

Economic diplomacy: CPEC allows Pakistan to make economic diplomacy the central plank of its foreign policy approach. It greatly facilitates the country to build economic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond. In retrospect, geopolitics often guided the foreign policy of the country that lowered the vitality of economic statecraft. But today CPEC gives an economic tool for diplomacy and engagement with the world for shared prosperity and mutual gain.

Read more: PML-N finding fault in their own CPEC deals?

Understanding the matter better

Regional connectivity: Pakistan’s new policy shift essentially revolves around the geo-economic pivot. As regional connectivity is the focal point of the country’s new policy paradigm, CPEC offers a feasible avenue for connectivity. The Central Asian Republics are landlocked countries with rich energy resources, so stability in Afghanistan will increase their appetite for accessing the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It can increase Pakistan’s bargaining power with these countries for energy security.

Foreign Direct Investment: CPEC acts as a magnet for FDI. It lures potential investors and provides a propitious destiny for investment in multiple sectors, particularly science and technology, fisheries, agriculture, industry, energy and Special Economic Zones. Balochistan’s colossal landmass provides opportunities for developing industrial zones, especially for processing sea, agriculture and livestock products through food technology.

Sustainable Development Goals: The socioeconomic dividend of CPEC will permit the country to meet the SDGs. Increasing economic activities under CPEC will create employment opportunities, alleviate poverty, reduce socioeconomic disparity, promote women’s participation in economic activities and decrease hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan may engage with the UN and regional countries for meeting the targets of SDGs through regional economic integration with the help of CPEC.

Read more: CPEC: An opportunity or another East India Company?

Economic growth: CPEC will rescue Pakistan’s sagging economy

It galvanizes economic activities, manufacturing industry, revenue generation, and employment opportunities, which can help resolve the chronic balance-of-payment crisis, and current/fiscal account deficit. CPEC will also maximize Balochistan’s economic contribution to the national economy. Along with natural resources, the province’s local products such as date, wheat, fruits, vegetables, fisheries and livestock will supplement the economic prospects.

Strategic autonomy: Competing great power interests have pushed the world t6 the brink of a new cold war. Pakistan’s delicate balancing act appears to be less feasible in a changing world. However, Pakistan’s new security policy (2022-2026) holds that the country will keep its distance from camp politics. But lack of substantial national leverage would be irksome to engage with great powers. In this context, CPEC saves Pakistan’s skin to maintain its strategic autonomy in this evolving new cold war politics. Economic engagement in lieu of geopolitical realignment will be the new policy approach toward great powers under CPEC.

Confidence Building Measures: Even though it may strike many people as a preposterous prognostication, CPEC would assist in economic confidence-building measures (CBMs) by increasing interaction between India and Pakistan which may alter their zero-sum strategic behavior and overcome the trust deficit. Growing energy demand in India will bring a change, if not a shift, in its policy towards Pakistan because CPEC makes it possible for India to guzzle energy from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. It thus paves the way for dialogue over the Kashmir quagmire and other strategic issues like nuclear arms.

Read more: Pakistan to hold CPEC Int’l conference

Soft power: Terrorism has abysmally tarnished Pakistan’s soft image

CPEC can refurbish the country’s image by connecting infrastructural dots and integrating regional economies with buoyant anticipation of shared prosperity. Pakistan’s economic-driven policy not only generates revenue, but it will also snowball the country’s soft power.

Tourism: CPEC will also displace terrorism with tourism. Although Balochistan has different ecological tourist sites, the beauty and tranquility of the province’s coastal belt offer a paradise to local as well as foreign explorers. Local foods like date and milk, Balochi ‘sajji’, sea products and many other traditional foods can delight people from different areas. It can significantly uplift the local economy and palliate the deprivation of people.

Naval power: The strategic location of CPEC at the heart of the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and other strategic choke points greatly facilitates Pakistan to building its naval power and protect regional economic interests. It makes Pakistan a formidable naval power to plays a key role in maritime politics.

Read more: China expresses gratitude as Pakistan provides safe environment to CPEC projects

Energy security: energy insecurity has retarded Pakistan’s industrial growth

Industries have died out because of energy shortages. As an energy corridor, CPEC will generously quench the energy thirst and boost industrialization in the country.

Perhaps if CPEC is not manna from heaven to fix all the problems of Pakistan, it can stimulate socio-economic development. But local grievances, dearth of transparency and red-tapism will dilute the salience of the corridor. Unless local people are taken into confidence for the development of the corridor, CPEC will remain just a good idea.

 

The writer is a strategic affair and foreign policy analyst. He tweets at @drsho_aib. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.