The Belt and Road Initiative, reminiscent of the Silk Road, is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. The Silk Road Initiative aimed to expand China westward. With this Central Asia became the epicenter of globalization by connecting eastern and western markets. This route peaked during the Roman and Byzantine empires but the Crusades and Mongols dampened the trade routes and left behind Central Asian countries economically isolated and the matter of fact is that today they depend on Russian remittances. But here the issue arises: where is China standing today? Did China stop working on its Silk Road project despite knowing the immense benefits involved?
Well, China will never give up on this project. China came up with a plan One Belt One Road initiative, later known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). President Xi Jinping Launched BRI in 2013 intending to introduce a vast collection of development and investment initiatives from East Asia to Europe. This project streamlined border crossings both westwards through the mountainous former Soviet Republics and Southward to Pakistan – India and the rest of South-East Asia. The BRI plan is two-pronged: 1) The overland silk road economic belt; 2) The Maritime Silk Road. The aim is to set a new trend toward a multipolar world; Economic globalization; Cultural diversity; Greater IT application, a global free trade regime and an open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation. President Xi’s vision is the establishment of a network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, IT industry, Special Economic Zones, International Airports and maritime ports etc.
Read more: China & Pakistan to introduce Green CPEC
The aim and vision seem to be an excellent opportunity for all the regional states to achieve their larger economic and security interests. So far 146 countries (as of March 2022) with roughly 2/3 of the world population, over 40% of world GDP and ¾ of global energy reserves have joined the BRI.
But here the question arises can CPEC be extended to include Turkey or not?
The answer is yes! CPEC is a flagship project of the BRI worth $60 billion. CPEC is not just a bilateral initiative but it has a regional perspective. It has the potential to become a truly regional initiative where CPEC can be extended to the Central Asian States, Afghanistan, Turkey and Oman. It is aimed at promoting: An orderly and free flow of economic factors; Highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; Encouraging the countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards; and jointly creating an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all. The project aims to enhance/establish energy, roads, ports, special economic zones and international airport infrastructure.
CPEC, as a symbol of cooperation between China and Pakistan, envisages the establishment of 2700 kilometers of road, railway, fiber connection, energy pipelines, industrial zones, and exclusive economic zones (MONE). Starting from China’s Xinjiang region and reaching the Gwadar coastal city of Pakistan’s Arabian Gulf exit, the line is one of the most important steps for China’s Belt and Road Initiative. With its strategic partnership, CPEC has a cooperation mode, “1+4”, with the following four pillars: Development and operation of Gwadar Port under modern conditions, construction of infrastructure, the establishment of trade and power lines from China to Pakistan and exclusive economic zones in China’s investment in Pakistan.
The corridor has a leading position in the growth of the Pakistani economy as well as providing access to the Hormuz and Bab al Mandab straits, which play an important role in the energy import from China and Gwadar Port.
But in the existing CPEC environment how to include Turkey?
Pakistan and Turkey are iron brothers. They supported each other through thick and thin. If we look at the GDP of both countries they stand at: Pakistan’s GDP is $348 B (44 ranked) while Turkey’s GDP is $692 B (23 ranked). CPEC is a bilateral partnership can be transformed as a “trilateral partnership” between China, Pakistan, and Turkey. All three states can work towards achieving common trade, and investment and improving on major imports and exports on both sides. If we look at the imports and exports between Pakistan and Turkey, Pakistan’s imports from Turkey were US$533 million in 2021 while Pakistan’s exports to Turkey were US$293.58 million in 2021. Pakistan largely exports electric generator sets ($92 million), cotton (112 million), etc. while importing machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers ($102 million), cotton ($79 million) etc.
Both Turkey and Pakistan are at the most strategic locations in the region.
Read more: CPEC and it’s significance for Balochistan
Throughout history, the South Asia region has been the apple of the world’s eye with its ancient culture and wealth. By joining BRI-CPEC both countries can further improve their defense arrangements; maximize their regional connectivity and increase trade; can further enhance their economic partnership; improve their cultural ties; further build on mutual political and diplomatic relationships, and work towards public welfare and better tourism facilities. It is a win-win situation. Now the question arises is it doable?
The answer is again yes! This is not something new. Pakistan, Iran and Turkey have been members of the Regional Cooperation for Development RCD in the past. Therefore, through CPEC, the RCD can be revived with new and latest trends of development projects. Pakistan and Turkey are already connected through the RCD Asian Railway network and Asian Highway network hence CPEC will not be something starting from scratch. CPEC will help in achieving the old development and prosperity plan. Then why not?
I think it’s time to accept the emerging world order and set our priorities based on our national and regional interests rather than abiding by the rotten world order that revolves around the benefits of a few at the cost of the majority.
Dr. Farah Naz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and Public Policy at the National University of Sciences and Technology. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy