Larger vision required
President Xi’s visit has importance for Pakistan and the region at large. It comes at a time when the US has withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan, heightening security concerns in the area. Many in Afghanistan and Pakistan think that China’s increased involvement in the region would bolster its security. The three countries face the terrorist threat and have shown keenness to work together to fight it. Afghanistan and Pakistan also need Chinese investments to develop their economies and reduce poverty which helps spread extremism and provides volunteers to terrorist networks. This explains why Beijing was among the first capitals visited by Nawaz Sharif and Ashraf Ghani after they were sworn in. Besides its economic gains for the region for its focus on infrastructure and energy, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has also vital strategic importance as it brings together neighbouring countries while providing them a powerful incentive to work together to eliminate terrorist networks whose activities disrupt social life and national economy.
The $45 billion CPEC is the largest Chinese oversees investment in a single country. The corridor which is now in the implementation stage focuses on a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects. It would link Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China’s Xinjiang province. Its significance for the region lies in that it would link China with Central Asia and South Asia. China has thus succeeded where the US largely failed, i.e., building critical infrastructure that could kick-start economic growth and open new trade routes that link the Indian and Pacific oceans, reducing distances and hazards and providing a reliable all weather link.
Nawaz Shaif and his colleagues should have realised by now that building the China-Pak Economic Corridor is not like building another motorway where the originally planned route could be changed to oblige party ticket holders. The implementation of the CPEC requires a larger vision than displayed so far by Team Sharif.