Jan Achakzai |
In order to economically sustain its growth at above 5 percent, and fully materialize CPEC by 2030, Pakistan needs to undertake revolutionary reforms domestically and forge new alliances and partnerships internationally to ensure development and prosperity. A secure environment to attract foreign investment will guarantee the materialization of these goals. Pakistan’s strained relations with its neighbors seem to be a hurdle in achieving this aim.
Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif’s unwritten policy guideline was engagement with India, discussing all issues on the table and resolving them if possible, followed by trade and connectivity in the region.
The current escalation of Durand line and the rising tensions between Pakistan and Iran have exposed Pakistan’s vulnerabilities to external threats. However, it is Indian involvement inside Pakistan and its aggressive actions along LOC which pose a real threat to the national security of Pakistan. The initiatives taken by the current government in Pakistan have the potential to take the country to new heights of development. The question, however, is whether Pakistan can manage aggressive Indian designs without undermining its economic rise?
Indian aggression: A hurdle to peace in region
Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif’s unwritten policy guideline was engagement with India, discussing all issues on the table and resolving them if possible, followed by trade and connectivity in the region. He tried to reduce tension with India, but atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir by Indian forces and Indian narrative of cross-border terrorism allegations in the wake of Pathankot and Uri incidents created hurdles in normalizing relations with India. Indian assumptions that the power differential between India and Pakistan is rising has led it to adopt an aggressive stance towards Pakistan which has led to the escalation of enmity among two neighbors.
CPEC has invited further Indian hostility towards Pakistan
Pakistan’s attempt to open up to the world through CPEC invited Indian hostility. Indian narrative over the years has remained that Pakistan is not economically viable state and is a sponsor of terrorism and hence it should be isolated. CPEC has caused irreparable damage to this narrative.
Pakistan also tried to improve relations with the US despite Washington’s growing ties with India. However, Islamabad also quickly realized that it need not depend upon one global power for ensuring its security and economic growth and it has vied for CPEC with an unprecedented commitment. Pakistan’s civilian leadership led by Prime Minister and its Army are on the same page to unlock the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative for the country and to make Pakistan a viable destination for investors.
Political stability and end to terrorism should be the second priority not to let its economic journey detracted as we need at least 7 percent growth rate for the next 20 years.
Realizing its importance, Russia has also exhibited interests in this mega project and the relationship between her and Pakistan have improved. It was a huge breakthrough as India considered Russia as its “best friend”. It is creating frictions in the Indo-Russian relationship.
By becoming part of the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia, Islamabad exhibited its willingness to combat terrorism anywhere in the world. With stability and economic growth, Islamabad’s rise in the region has only enhanced its clout over its old friends like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. CPEC has increased Pakistan’s influence worldwide.
Pakistan enters “big boys club”
Islamabad is about to enter into ‘big boys club’ and all eyes are now fixed on Pakistan. This is why our new narrative that Pakistan is the gateway of economic civilization – the old Silk Road – is all the more relevant. However, in addition, Pakistan must do four things: Pakistan must ensure growth trajectory underpinned by first generation reforms including extending tax to GDP ratio to 20 percent of the population, land reforms, dramatic reduction in cost of doing business (by offering one window solution), and the fixing of 19th century style bureaucracy among other things.
Political stability and end to terrorism should be the next priority; not to let its economic journey detracted. Pakistan needs a growth rate of at least 7 percent for the next 20 years, to emerge as a middle power, in the region realigning with the rest of the world.
Thirdly, Pakistan must focus on the three countries in Europe: France, Germany, and the UK and economically develop its ties with Turkey. In the Far East, apart from China, Pakistan should work on its relations with South Korea and Indonesia. In Americas, Brazil and Argentina should be engaged as Brazil is world power of water energy and is willing to help Pakistan in this sector.
Read more: Electric Cars in Pakistan! The Perks of CPEC
Fourth, with its rising clout in GCC countries, Pakistan must do the balancing act. It must improvise Iran policy by making CPEC as East-West corridor as well with the possibility of giving land access to Tehran to the Indian market as an incentive to enhance ties with Pakistan. Since Iran will continue to be under the US sanctions, its only way out to get back into the mainstream is by accessing Indian and Chinese markets, for both, the conduit is Pakistan.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, leader ruling PML-N party, and advisor to Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.