Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal is looking after the CPEC and his ministry is coordinating with all other ministries and provincial governments. In an interview with The Nation he spoke about the vision of CPEC and explained some of its salient features. Following are excerpts of the interview:

What do you see are going to be the main impacts of CPEC on economy, trade and exports of Pakistan?

The financial flows are expected to raise investment to GDP ratio by 2.8 percent. This investment will spur economic activity and is expected to create around 2 million new jobs, given employment elasticity. The enhanced power generation capacity along with improved connectivity resulting from CPEC projects is expected to add 1.5 percentage points GDP growth in medium to long term. The increased investment may initially increase imports on account of raw material and industrial machinery for the projects. The investment of Chinese companies in CPEC projects as commercial ventures which will thus serve as foreign direct investment and will eventually contribute to overall growth by catalyzing investment to GDP ratio.

How it’s going to impact our local businesses and industries as it’s widely feared that we are not in position to compete with Chinese giants?

Development of Special Economic Zones will balance the impact of China’s Transit Trade. China’s interest in transferring most of its labour intensive manufacturing/Assembling plants to Pakistan will balance out any adverse effect from transit trade. Joint ventures and setting up new industries will have multiplier impact on exports, hence balancing any adverse effect from China’s trade. Chinese Giants are not only willing to relocate their operations, in fact they are willing to form a joint venture with local Pakistani businesses. The JV will not only promote competition but it will uplift Pakistani industry as well. Besides, China considers Pakistan a strategic partner therefore enhancing goodwill through CPEC is the prime focus of Chinese leadership.

India is building a railway from Chahbahar to connect to the Iranian Railway System to reach the Central Asian markets and tap the mineral rich Central Afghanistan; Do you think it’s going to impact plans of Central Asian Connectivity via CPEC?

It will not have any effect on Central Asian connectivity via CPEC. Gwadar is deepest sea port in the region with shortest distance to China. Therefore Gwadar is not competing with any other port in the region

Reservation still persists about the CPEC among different communities. Do you see CPEC is dividing or uniting force or its impact on our national integration?

Initially some external forces tried to hurt the mega project by using local communities to spread misunderstandings. However all the stakeholders are united for CPEC, proof of which was 6th JCC held in Beijing last month, where all the provincial governments not only participated but showed full co-operation to make the mega project a success.

There is assumption that China is going to control everything or it is a new east India company, how are we going to check Chinese hegemony?

Pakistan and China are all weather and time tested friends. CPEC is a fusion of Vision 2025 and China's One-Belt One-Road philosophy. This is not the first time we are partnering in any front. We had been tied into strategic partnership for decades. CPEC brings forth a transformational paradigm, moving from geo- strategic to geo- economic partnership between the two countries.

China's huge investment in energy, infrastructure and suggested industrial sectors doesn't provides any extra ordinary mileage to either of the partnering countries rather it offers win-win situation and equal opportunities to both China and Pakistan. Hence, there is no question to compare CPEC with East India Company. China is putting into lot of sincere efforts to help Pakistan to improve socio-economic indicators in Pakistan.

India is against CPEC as according their stance its passing through some disputed territories, the question is how it’s going to impact our relations with India?

Indian government’s response is knee jerk reaction. India’s think tanks are now advising Indian government to join CPEC. India’s efforts to create disputes will be counterproductive for the region. Pakistan seeks peace and cooperation with its neighbours. We hope very soon India will realize potential of CPEC for South Asia.

How it’s going to affect our foreign policy and relations with other developed countries?

CPEC is a game-changer in every aspect. Not only is CPEC opening opportunities for Pakistan and China, however countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, along with central Asian and European countries are showing interest in CPEC. Hence it will only improve our foreign relations. Many multi-national companies have offered to work in CPEC, which is the first step towards improving foreign relations.