An ancient Chinese saying goes, “A long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time”. Similarly, there is an Arab proverb which says that the Pyramid was built by piling one stone on another. In Europe, there is also the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The Belt and Road Initiative is a global step toward epic walk to glory in South Asia.

Notwithstanding brewing antagonism of eating regional resources, landing South Asia, South East Asia and Africa into debt traps, ramping up military and political heft around the globe, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is spelling success in South Asia by opening up all vistas of shared success through revitalizing regional connectivity, innovation, socio-economic development and financial fortunes.

Pakistan

Pakistan is showing sign of recovery with economic take-off riding on fate-changing tide of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the BRI. With approximately $ 62 billion initiative, Pakistan’s economic outlook is improving. Pakistan total GDP has blossomed from $244 billion in 2014 to more than $ 313.13 billion in 2018, $13 billion will come to Pakistan’s GDP by 2025, 2 percent to 2.5 percent annual economic growth rate is predicted till 2030.

China is ready to assist Pakistan in developing comparatively advantageous industries in the mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. In order to provide myriad benefits to boost up SMEs, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are going to be established in coming days.

They will provide Pakistani investors incentives regarding tax breaks, exception to sale tax, excise tax, custom duties, financial arrangements, concessional utilities like electricity, gas and water, educational and health facilities, capacity buildings for skill enhancements, special course and training for skilled and semi skilled workers. SEZs will cater both low-end and high end products keeping in view targeted items to prevent market saturation. Since 2013, Pakistan had been suffering severe power outages with a power deficit of up to 20 hours a day. The electricity plague triggered unrest among the public and took heavy toll on industries and other economic activities.

CPEC are set to boost opportunities in logistics business manifolds as millions of containers are expected to move cargo from Gwadar/Sust to China annually,” says Hassan Daud, CPEC spokesperson in Pakistan.

Sri Lanka

In the past five years, China’s BRI has rained down fortunes on Sri Lanka completing more than US$15 billion worth of infrastructure projects in the field of transportation, water supply, electricity, ports and other fields.

Sri Lanka after the end of the 30 years war against the Tamil militants in 2009 had been languishing badly. It direly needed strong support to infrastructure construction and financial investment. At the critical time when Sri Lanka had lost hope, China came up with BRI with whopping funding to rebuild nation of island.

In tune with national development strategy, BRI rescued Sri Lanka by upgrading Colombo Port City into state of art shipping, logistics, tourism and financial center in South Asia, with a direct investment of US$ 1.4 billion and a planned second-level Building Complex valued at US$ 13 billion,

This BRI project is a booster for Sri Lankan social-economic landscape, prompting higher FDI levels and enhancing its capital’s status, establishing it as one of South Asia’s key international cities. In order to materialize action plan, the surrounding infrastructure is also being revamped. This will see two looped roadways, linked to an underground tunnel, providing a direct connection to Sri Lanka’s expressway network, streamlining access to the other major cities in the region. A new inter-city train link will also connect to Colombo’s light-rail system. To date, BRI has been helping Sri Lanka to boost connectivity by expanding its road, rail, port and air networks. In recent time, work on the Hambantota Port and a 6,000-hectare special industrial zone on an adjacent site as part of the Maritime Silk Road is at full throttle.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is among those South Asian countries to be cherishing high dividends of China-led ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI). Total investment of $38 billion under the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor is designed to improve land, rail, water and air interconnection among the four countries.

Bangladesh gears up to get a new lease of life with booming economic and infrastructure work including Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone, Payra Power Plant, the 8th China Bangladesh Friendship Bridge, and the International Exhibition Center at the cost of $10 billion. BRI development plan will bolster infrastructure, the trade and investment environment, and people’s livelihood, and play a positive role in the economic and social development of Bangladesh.

Being the second largest garments producer and exporter after china, Bangladesh has been modernizing its readymade garment industry to stay highly competitive in world market. With BRI economic growth, Bangladesh has a great prospect to become the leading garment producer and exporter in the world market near future. China being a big consumer market has a potential to be lucrative market for Bangladesh as the production cost of apparel and readymade garments in china is increasing very high.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan, landlocked country of South Asia, is in desperate need to rebuild its war-torn cities. It seeks development of road and rail networks to streamline trade connectivity inside and outside neighboring countries. Insecurity and political rifts have put economic growth at lowest ebb. Given the crumbling situation, BRI seems to be light at the end of tunnel. Plan is on the cards to extend CPEC, pilot project of BRI, to Afghanistan to be part of shared destiny.

“If CPEC-Afghanistan plan comes to fruition, it will be linking to Iran from whom China currently gets the bulk of its oil. Moreover it will help to increase trade with Turkey. This economic activity will change the fate of Afghanistan,” Javed Pasha, senior economist says.

Maldives

Having realized BRI significance, Maldives has signed Free Trade agreement (FTA) to enjoy multiple benefits of Maritime Silk Road, integral part of Belt and Road Initiative. An archipelago of around 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, Maldives see its vital growth in tourism and infrastructure developments as China is funding and building mega infrastructure projects, including the Friendship Bridge linking Male to Hulhule Island and a 1,000-apartment housing project on Hulhumale, a suburb built on reclaimed land.

Nepal

An Indian-Nepal-China economic corridor has been proposed under the Belt and Road initiative while on April 28, 2017 Nepal proposed Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway to be a part of ‘One Belt One Road’ project initiated by China. There is a great potential for Chinese FDI, Chinese IT, internet connection in Nepal, petroleum import from China, Chinese/Tibetan medicines, etc. This will also enhance Nepal’s tourism sector as over 130 million Chinese people go abroad as tourists annually. However, Nepal has not been able to attract even 0.2 per cent outbound Chinese tourists. Only about 150,000 Chinese tourists visit Nepal annually. Nepal-China relations are in full swing. Nepal has cooperated with China on many international issues. However, Nepal is yet to get real benefit from China’s exemplary economic development. The BRI should be a gateway for Nepal to reap benefit from her northern neighbour’s overall development.

Bhutan

As BRI is name of shared destiny, it is not leaving any country to bask in its broad-based growth. Bhutan and China is going to give new lease of life to their bilateral relations after China has offered Bhutan to team up in Belt and Road Initiative.

 

The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ.

 yaseerkhan@hotmail.com

@yasirkhann