Institutional work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been getting slow due to a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons lie within Pakistan and not in China as such. The first is that Pakistan has been going through an election period, which is coming to the end when the new government takes its root and forms a new set up. The second reason for the slow progress on CPEC projects is the “watch and see” policy by the donor - China. They are assessing the political situation and seeing what is in their interest to further offer to Pakistan. The Chinese always take an indirect route to assess the situation in any country. Pakistan should not take a different course of action.
However, the CPEC is the long-term project and it never ends. After generating 11,000 MW of electricity, the project has entered into its second phase up to 2030 where quite a large number of the projects have been designed to be completed in the next 12 years.
The year 2030 is an important year. We exactly do not know who will run China and Pakistan by that time. Many more changes are expected to take place within Pakistan and lesser in China. China is a mass democracy and Pakistan is a Western democracy. Things might be different in Pakistan to a large extent because of its vulnerability. There might be the same political democratic status within China, which will make its task much easier. China might be in a position to put more pressure on Pakistan and ask to do certain things for its benefit, which Pakistan might do in order to keep this relationship up.
In a relatively weaker state, things could be dictated by powerful countries or by a group of countries who have a sizeable influence over that country. In both ways, the situation for the weaker country might not be the same. All institutional worries have to be taken into its account if this state wants to exercise relative power. Otherwise its institutions might collapse and could invite more intervention in its affairs by the outsiders.
The institutional work taken into CPEC projects in Pakistan is already massive moving to over US$ 64 billion. There are no reasons from the Chinese side to stop any further work on the projects. Further work could be their priority and Chinese might prefer to continuously work on these projects. With the same token, China might not abandon their developmental work in Xinjiang for whatever reasons, including terrorism and separatism, in that vast area of China, which has been causing huge losses to it. China wants to defeat terrorism and separatism at all costs through military might and developmental posture.
China would prefer to develop a “peace highway” bringing enormous benefits to China and its people. Development is much more precious to China than keeping its regions backward for whatever reasons. This naturally makes Pakistan develop its backward areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. With a Chinese ride to development, this region would also get its proper share and get developed, and makes its due share. There is no other way that Pakistan could develop its region without the Chinese support.
The development of the CPEC is mutually interested between Pakistan and China. It is not China alone that wants to get develop the region. The stakes of Pakistan are too high to get it connected and developed.
The backwardness and under-development of this region would be putting too much pressure on Pakistan to get it developed and it bring it on par with the other regions of the country. Without the development of Gilgit-Baltistan, there will be no question of development and prosperity for Pakistan. The fate of Gilgit-Baltistan looks intertwined with Xinxiang.
Hope is that the new government of PTI would listen to these concerns and would help develop CPEC and Gilgit-Baltistan. In the next 5 years, we might see the development of this region with enthusiastic Chinese intake. A new and much more progressed Pakistan would be emerging under the umbrella of the CPEC. The CPEC has all the energetic spirit to boost the economy of Pakistan and it brings it in line with some of the most developed economies of the world.
The CPEC industrial sector has been designed in a sense to compete with all the developed economies of the world and to bring it in more industrial goods to its strength together with both private and public sector. A friend in need is a friend indeed. We put a great deal of time in China and we are hoping that the CPEC would be changing Pakistan to a large extent. A China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the call of day and it would bring enormous benefits to the economy of Pakistan in the years to come.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.