Chinese officials in Beijing hoped that work on various energy and infrastructure development projects as well as establishment of free trade zones under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be completed before the schedule as the leadership from the both sides is attaching high importance to it.
This connectivity plan, aimed at bringing prosperity to the people of region, received high importance in the Chinese next five year plan, said Zhang Zeebong, an official of the Chinese company that is engaged in the construction of an energy project in Pakistan.
As per the plan, the first phase of the CPEC is scheduled to be completed sometime during 2017-18. The second phase of this long-term, broad framework, multiple sector project will be completed by 2020 and the phase will be accomplished by 2030. However, the benefits of the CPEC will start emerging even before completion of its first phase.
According to a report placed on the website of China’s State Council Information Office, Pakistan’s profile has improved enormously in terms of being an investment destination. Economic indicators in Pakistan have also improved. Security agencies within the country have also renewed their pledge to root out terrorism. The ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ operation, a joint military offensive led by the Pakistani armed forces which aims to counter various militant groups, has entered its final phase and the country’s law enforcement agencies have officially announced that the operation will be completed shortly.
The CPEC has initial investment worth 46 billion US dollars. This amount will primarily be used for developing infrastructure and producing energy through bilateral agreements between both China and Pakistan. Out of this initial amount, 35 to 38 billion US dollars will be utilised for energy and the rest of the money will go towards the development of infrastructure, the report says.
This includes estimates for spending 11.6 billion US dollars in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 11.5 US dollars in Sindh, 7.1 US dollars in Balochistan and 6.9 US dollars in Punjab. China’s trade routes for the Middle East, Africa and Europe will experience a substantial reduction after completion of the project. China’s dependence on the sea of Malacca and South Asia will also be reduced. The CPEC – a route almost 3,200 kilometers in length – will connect Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region to the port of Gawadar, the report adds.
Currently, nearly 80 per cent of China’s oil is transported by ship from the Strait of Malacca to Shanghai, a distance of more than 16,000 km, with the journey taking between two to three months. But once Gwadar becomes operational the distance will be reduced to less than 5,000 km. China’s presence in Gwadar will also increase its influence in the Indian Ocean, a vital route for oil transportation between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Pakistan has seen a new path of development and prosperity as a result of the CPEC. New hope has been instilled in a country which currently faces energy deficit, and there is a certain confidence amongst observers that Pakistan could become a regional economic hub.
Pakistan’s armed forces are protecting the CPEC just as a mother might do for her child. For instance, the army has formed a special security division (SSD) for Chinese engineers and workers. According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), SSD comprises nine army battalions and six wings of the civil armed forces, commanded by a major-general. Pakistanis Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has said, “We are totally aware of all campaigns against the corridor and I vow that the security forces are ready to pay any price to turn this long-cherished dream into reality.”
There is seemingly no opposition towards the project from within Pakistan and even ordinary Pakistanis are now fully aware of the importance of CPEC. Criticism of the CPEC by Pakistan’s rivals has made common citizens aware and conscious about the project. When the Chinese ambassador to India was summoned to New Delhi so that the Indian government could express its opposition to the project, normal Pakistanis came to understand how important the project is for them.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that, “The CPEC is a commercial project having nothing to do with any third party,” Pakistan’s media seized upon this and highlighted its importance. The CPEC has strengthened Pakistan as all major political parties are united on it. It is also important to note that every province hopes to gain the maximum amount of benefit from the project and there is certainly nothing wrong with such a desire.
In Pakistan there is Council of Common Interest (CCI) – a mechanism of sharing resources and benefits among provinces. The CCI has done a great job in the past in resolving difference of opinion among provinces. So there is not a remote possibility of any hurdle from any side within Pakistan about successful implementation of the CPEC, the report concluded.