There is little doubt that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a landmark event in the history of Pakistan-China friendship rooted in the convergence of the strategic interests of the two countries. The CPEC plan involves over 60 billion dollars of Chinese investment in the various sectors of the Pakistan economy by 2025. But it may lead to a much higher level of Chinese investment in Pakistan in the longer time frame work according to the proposals being considered by the two countries. CPEC besides providing the much needed resources for accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth would also provide to north-western China a shorter and much more economical route for maritime trade with the rest of the world than what has been available so far. Above all, it would strengthen Pakistan-China strategic partnership which serves the best interests of the two countries. The importance of this partnership for Pakistan’s security can hardly be over-emphasised considering the enduring threat posed to it by India. As for China, its trade route to Gwadar through Pakistan would enable it to bypass attempts by the US and India to block the expansion of China’s influence and power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.


It would not be surprising, therefore, for India and the US to use all the resources at their disposal to launch a concerted propaganda campaign to discredit CPEC in the eyes of the people of Pakistan and among its influential circles. This is precisely what is happening right now. Rumour mills are working overtime through media and otherwise to create all sorts of doubts among the Pakistani people about the real intentions of China and effects of CPEC on Pakistan. A ridiculous rumour that is being bandied about is that through CPEC China would acquire a controlling influence in Pakistan turning it into a Chinese colony. There couldn’t be anything more preposterous than this charge which has no basis in reality. CPEC has been voluntarily agreed between two sovereign nations and is designed to serve their best strategic and economic interests. Its projects would bring badly needed investment in Pakistan in such sectors as energy, which has been facing a huge power shortfall, transport, communications, agriculture and industry. Many of those making the above mentioned outlandish accusation because of their well-known Western leanings would have been quite happy to support the plan if it were US or some other Western country offering to invest on such a vast scale in Pakistan.


Another charge against CPEC is that the Chinese investment under it is being obtained at too high a cost. On the face of it, the charge again appears to be baseless. It would be reasonable to assume that the government of Pakistan and its officials took all the relevant factors into account in the negotiating the terms and conditions of the planned Chinese investment in Pakistan under CPEC. Nevertheless, some commentators keep on referring to alleged negative consequences of Chinese investments in Sri Lanka and Venezuela to substantiate their criticism of CPEC. The charges of those alleged negative consequences are probably debatable. If the local authorities mess up their affairs, the blame for it cannot be placed at the doorstep of the Chinese. At the same time it is incumbent upon our government to come out with a detailed exposition of the terms and conditions of the Chinese investments under the various CPEC projects to satisfy the sceptics amongst us that they are in our best economic interests. Transparency should be the order of the day in such matters of national importance.


The foregoing point also underlines the imperative of efficient management of our economy by our economic managers. We need to remember that foreign investment, whether from China or anywhere else, while welcome, is not a substitute for our own efforts to put our economy on an even keel and to accelerate our economic growth. It is primarily our responsibility to raise our national saving and investment rates to quicken the pace of economic development. Other things remaining the same, it is the national investment rate which determines the economic growth rate. The higher the national investment rate, the higher would be the economy’s growth rate. Right now our national performance both in savings and investment areas is miserably poor. Our national saving and investment rates are likely to be about 13% and 15.8% of GDP respectively in 2016-17 according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. By way of comparison, India’s national saving and investment rates are over 30% of GDP while China’s corresponding rates are around 50% of GDP. Chinese investment in Pakistan is most welcome on the right terms and conditions. But our policy makers must not be oblivious of our own responsibilities in improving our economic performance. It would be counterproductive if the promise of Chinese investment leads us to slacken in the discharge of our own responsibility to promote economic development in the country.


Besides propagating various accusations against CPEC, India can also be expected to take steps for increasing external pressure on Pakistan to divert the attention of our authorities from the massive task of accelerating economic development and the efficient execution of the various projects under CPEC. Indo-Afghan coordinated pressure on Pakistan is an obvious indicator of India’s evil designs against Pakistan. Another target of India’s nefarious intentions would be Pakistan-Iran friendship which generally has been a source of great support and strength to Pakistan in critical moments of its history. Needless to say that we should take all possible steps to preserve and strengthen our friendship with Iran and to resolve amicably our problems with Afghanistan so as to promote the peace process in that country and strengthen Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation in various fields.


New Delhi would not desist even from sponsoring acts of terrorism in Pakistan to frustrate the successful execution of CPEC projects as shown by the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian spy who was arrested in Balochistan in March last year on charges of involvement in terrorism and espionage in Pakistan on behalf of RAW. In addition, India would not miss any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan politically both for preventing the successful implementation of CPEC and to weaken Pakistan for the fulfillment of its hegemonic designs in South Asia. It is a source of great disappointment that at this critical moment in our history when we should be united in facing the daunting internal and external challenges, we give the impression of a house divided because of the short-sighted and self-serving policies of some of our politicians. It is high time we focused on the really pressing internal and external issues facing the country instead of wasting our energies on frivolous matters of little concern to the security and economic well-being of the nation.


Our politicians especially need to show some maturity in dealing with national issues. The daily spectacle of unseemly fights and quarrels among the politicians in TV talk shows and press conferences to score personal points does not show them in good light besides having a demoralising effect on the nation as a whole. Similarly the different institutions of the state need to show circumspection in their conduct and in offering comments on important issues of national interest. Our civilian and military leadership must avoid any step, which has the effect of derailing or weakening the democratic process in the country, as it would aggravate political instability and indirectly support the machinations of our arch enemy, India.


 


The writer is a retired ambassador and   the president of the Lahore Council    for World Affairs.


javid.husain@gmail.com