I congratulate Global Village Space, which has become synonymous with strategic insight for Pakistan, on bringing out a special edition on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Let me express my conviction that the CPEC is succeeding and it will continue to succeed. Its success is assured because of its globalist vision of leveraging economic geography for enhancing prosperity, as well as peace and stability all around.
This megaproject is part of an even greater transcontinental project called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) led by China, which has been adopted by more than 70 countries with planned investment of US 1 trillion. Once accomplished, the BRI will become a way of life at the international level. By implementing the CPEC, Pakistan has become part of this new global agenda.
The CPEC should not be misconstrued only as a layout for roads, bridges, ports, airports, railway and industrial zones. All that is there, but it is part of a bigger vision to promote connectivity and cooperation among our adjoining neighbourhoods. Thus, Pakistan would be both a conduit and a destination for investment and trade, as well as a meeting point for civilisations.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), along with Gilgit Baltistan, are an intrinsic part of CPEC. The central artery of the corridor enters and passes through G-B. And Azad Kashmir has been integrated into three key CPEC sectors – hydropower, a special economic zone (SEZ), and infrastructure development. The 720 MW hydropower project (HPP) at Karot is nearing completion and the 1124 MW HPP at Kohala has been launched.
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Two other HPPs – 700 MW Azad Pattan and 600 MW Mahl – are on the anvil. Initial planning has been done to build a motorway from Mansehra to Mirpur an SEZ at Mirpur. But this is just the beginning. Benefits of these projects would be immense: establishment of strategic and economic trade routes, enhanced connectivity among all districts of AJK and with Pakistan, and creation of jobs, livelihoods and ancillary businesses.
Under the umbrella of CPEC, we shall also invest in promotion of tourism, agriculture, technical education and optical fiber linkage. The emphasis would be on holistic socio-economic development so that CPEC is organically absorbed into our existing economy. Initial thought has also been given to an alternative CPEC route through Shounter Pass that would connect G-B and AJK via Neelam Valley.
At one point, even Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of the Occupied Kashmir, aspired that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir should be part of CPEC and Central Asia. And why not? But first India should vacate the occupied territory respecting the will of the people. We reject India’s spurious objections to CPEC passing through G-B and AJK.
We also dismiss insinuations and critique that CPEC is part of the socalled debt-trap diplomacy. It is propaganda that won’t work. We, however, would welcome investment by the US and its allies in all parts of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. The BRI is a tidal global wave and CPEC is part of it. We are riding this tide that would usher in peace and prosperity in the region and beyond. We are on track.