The Prime Minister’s triumphant return from China with a bulging investment portfolio has been appreciated across the board at home. The investments are ambitious; an economic corridor from Kashgar to Gawadar, which will also tie in with the greater Eurasia Land Bridge, myriad energy and industrial projects, and infrastructure improvements. Perhaps it is too ambitious. What is the realistic timeframe for their completion? How will local legal and bureaucratic red tape, which has held up projects in the past, be reduced? And most importantly, how will the vital corridor be protected against insurgency?

In a recent three-day visit by the Chinese State Councillor Guo Shengkun, minister for public security met with top Pakistani leadership including the military’s top brass, to follow up on the commitments made and to iron out the kinks. As his portfolio suggests, the talks were on a slightly different tangent; rather than dialogue on pure economic matters, both sides agreed to “work together to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism, combating drug trafficking, border management and law enforcement”. Western China is facing unrest at the hands of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is believed to also utilise Afghanistan and Pakistan as a base of operations. The Gawadar port development has already taken a hit due to the Baloch insurgency. While the ever present threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda attacks also are a cause for worry. It is not surprising that China and Pakistan are planning to take concrete steps to brush aside this nuisance, albeit daunting, from the path of economic prosperity. This also extends to Afghanistan: there seems to be a dedicated push by Kabul and Islamabad to counter cross border terrorism and maintain stability. China is also emerging as a potential stakeholder in Afghanistan as the US is drawing back.

China’s concerns over the ability of foreign powers to choke its extended, but vital, shipping lanes has imparted a fair amount of exigency to the Pakistan China Economic corridor. This exigency must translate into a stable region. It is a pre-requisite to the promised prosperity.