The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a bouquet of projects, presently under construction, at a cost of $46 billion which aims to improve Pakistani infrastructure and to deepen the economic and political ties between China and Pakistan. CPEC, besides being extremely advantageous to Pakistan, also carries substantial economic and strategic benefits for China. Its importance for China is evident from the fact that it is part of China’s thirteenth five-year development plan. CPEC will prove to be a strong knitting-factor between China and Pakistan who share a history of congenial strategic relations, over versatile canvass of mutual interest, extending over six decades. In past 65 years both the countries have developed strong bilateral trade and economic collaboration. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in imports and exports. And CPEC is going further enhance the lucrative economic cooperation between the two countries. If realised, the plan would be China’s biggest splurge on economic development in another country to date. It aims over 15 years to create a 2000-mile economic corridor between Gwadar Port to China’s North Western region of Xinjiang through 2,700 km long highway from Kashgar to Gwadar, railway links for freight trains, oil and gas pipelines and an optical fibre link. The actualisation of this project will create nearly 7, 00,000 new jobs and will add up to 2.5% to Pakistan’s annual growth rate.

CPEC has undeniable economic and strategic importance for Pakistan and China. It has been correctly termed as a game-changer for Pakistan because it will link China with markets in Central Asia and South Asia. Presently China is some 13,000 Km from Persian Gulf with a long shipping time of about 45 days. CPEC will shrink this distance to merely 2500 Km (80% reduction). The shipping time will reduce to 10 days (78% reduction). Bulk of China’s trade is through the narrow sea channel of the Strait of Malacca. Top security analysts are of the opinion that in the event of a future war in Asia, United States’ Navy can block the Strait of Malacca which will suffocate China’s trade route. CPEC, besides providing an alternate route, will reduce the shipping time, from China to Europe, from 45 days 10 days.

The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-thirsty Pakistan, badly affected by hours of daily scheduled power cuts because of electricity-shortage, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants. The plans envisages at adding 10,400 megawatts of electricity at a cost of $15.5 billion by 2018. And after 2018 further 6,600 megawatts, at an additional cost of $18.3 billion, will be added which would double Pakistan’s current electricity output.

Though CPEC carries tremendous amount of benefits for China and Pakistan but it is also challenged with security-related and political threats. There are two major sources of threat, Indian involvement and the separatist rebellion in Baluchistan, where the port of Gwadar is situated. Both dimensions of threat are interconnected because recent arrests, of Indian spies, from Pakistan reveal that Indian Government is spending a huge amount of money and resources to sabotage the CPEC project. Besides espionage activities India is also supporting the Baloch rebels. Nevertheless, Pakistan is well-equipped, with adequate security and infrastructural support, to effectively deal with such challenges. Operation “Zarb-e-Azb” which has received international recognition and appreciation has flushed the major chunk of extremists from Pakistan’s soil.

The political side of Pakistan is not very rosy either. It is always an ordeal to have a political consensus over an issue. Kalabagh dam which is considered to be extremely important to address Pakistan’s water-shortage problems have been subjected to political controversy and still awaits construction. Similar formulas are being applied to CPEC. Drums of provincialism are being beaten loudly in order to make CPEC another Kalabagh dam. However this time sanity prevails in the political leadership and controversies were nipped at an early stage. Besides the efforts of political leaders, contribution from the Army chief must not go unappreciated. He took a special interest in this project and provided, and ensured for future, Pakistan Army’s full and unconditional, support towards this mega-economic project.

CPEC is a potential-rich project which carries huge economic benefits for the people of Pakistan and the region. According to recent estimate CPEC will serve three billion people, nearly half of global population. Thus a huge economic bloc is about to emerge from this region. Upon completion of CPEC Pakistan will become a connecting bridge to three engines of growth; China, Central Asia, and South Asia. It will create a large number of jobs and shall elevate Pakistan to high growth rates which will ensure Pakistan’s stability and will serve as a deterrent against extremism and violence.

Completion of CPEC is not going to be an easy task because it has attracted international conspiracies against which it must be guarded. Economic dividends of this project, by connecting all the economies of the region, are going to be so high that once this project is in full-operational mode even our hostile neighbour India would ultimately join the club for greater economic benefits.