imran usmani

islamabad - Chinese literature borne a famous proverb “If you want to be rich then build the roads”. Having the comprehensive importance in mind, Chinese government has diligently concentrated all its efforts in building and improving internal communication and transportation agencies since premier Deng Xia ping’s era. However, economic development needs reliable markets at home and abroad, free trade paradigm, and globally connected rapid transportation system. To meet all the fundamental requisites of long lasting and shared economic prosperity, China comes up with its global connectivity initiative under “Belt & Road Initiative” (BRI) plan that consists of road building, stretching of railways lines and establishing of commercial ports and free trade zones in both developing and developed states.

 BRI is China’s third grand opening, following ancient Silk Road and Ming China’s treasure fleet between 1405 and 1433, to the external world. The initiative is erected on the belief of free world system, shared efforts for brighter ends and endures to sustain Liberal paradigm consistent with China’s appropriate role in global governance. In this new connectivity initiative under the umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative Pakistan acquires paramount significance. Sino-Pakistan relations have sundry sweet dimensions that range from economic collaboration to strategic reliance. Historical roots, strategic alliance, geographical contiguity, people to people contact and time tested relations are important movers of this relation. The relations of both the neighbors are embedded in each other’s strategic cultures like strategic and economic jewels and no longer dependent on any variable to be testified or solidified.

Pakistan has essential responsibility and exposure in the initiative. Out of six corridors, the flagship corridor of the initiative CPEC passes through Pakistan. It connects snow covered lofty Himalayas with salty waters of the Indian Ocean. Chinese and Pakistani governments are putting their best teams on the ground to achieve the corridor with maximum fruition and balanced dividends.  However, in the smooth implantation of CPEC both could confront sundry challenges from non- traditional to traditional nature. And these challenges are routine and normal matters for such gigantic projects. In third world states, BRI can face daunting challenges like anticipated rampant corruption, comparatively political destabilization, mercurial nature of foreign policies, and bureaucratic impediments. China has already observed such hindrances in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and some other African states.

The new government will very carefully advance the CPEC project. For the coming government CPEC holds enormous importance in multiple aspects. Firstly, Pakistan’s infrastructure is in shambles, transportation seems to belong to B.C. era, and unyielding energy crisis is accompanied by poor management.  Inefficient measures in the middle of grave crisis, only Chinese expertise, invested and loaned capital can be true rescuer.   Secondly, in global theatre, foreign policy of Pakistan is facing massive pressure on all fronts. As a result of the 21st century power influx, Pakistan is being pushed to the unsatisfied club of states. These dissatisfied club members legitimately want to revisit the rules of the west dominated and orchestrated global structure. China by default is leading the bid for responsible contributor and sizeable influencer of the new evolving but alternative structure to the one dominated by west.        

It was a fabricated perception that the government under Imran Khan will not be China friendly as its predecessor. And like Sri Lanka, the new Pakistani government may try to revisit the rules that could shake China-Pakistan relations.  However, prime minister-elect Imran Khan’s speech and his special focus of Chinese model of administration foiled the funded propaganda to discourage CPEC and malign Sino-Pak relations. Khan’s speech echoed the famous phrase “Higher than Himalayas”. Gawadar port could rightly be declared the most important strategic and economic organ of CPEC. Its multifaceted importance is not a hidden mystery. The statistical vitality aside but Gwadar strategically places Pakistan in the most contesting and discussed Indian Ocean region. Robert D Kaplan, the 21stcentury geo-strategist in “Center Stage for the 21st Century” declares that due to residence for preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway, Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is where global struggles will play out in the twenty-first century. Gwadar port makes Pakistan one the central geo- political players of the 21st century maritime competition. Robert D. Kaplan defines Gawadar “If there are great place names of the past Carthage, Thebes, Troy, Samarkand, Angkor Wat -and the present –Dubai, Singapore, Tehran, Beijing Washington, then Gwadar might qualify as a great place name of the future.”

CPEC is meeting both internal and external challenges, ranging from false social media propaganda to openly India’s declared proxy wars in Baluchistan and FATA. Nevertheless, the security responsibilities are in the most reliable force and shouldered by Pak Army. For the protection of the 3000 km long road against all kind of traditional and nontraditional threats new security divisions have been established.  The maritime area of CPEC at the tip of Baluchistan in Gwadar will be guarded by naval division “Task force 88”.

Imran Khan recognized China as a mentor and beacon for Pakistan. The coming government and establishment will be likely on one page against corrupt elements, foreign policy contours, and economic diplomacy in Pakistan. It is high time to learn from Chinese anti-corruption drive, poverty reduction agenda, efforts for equal distribution of wealth, austerity and plantations programs. There are important lessons in Chinese anti corruption drive “Cage the Tiger” policy and need to be implemented in Pakistan, but across the board without any discrimination.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.