There is a grave concern over the too late activity and far less response against the economic initiatives taken by the previous government, including the handing of Gwadar seaport to China and the signing of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project agreements, though the nationwide criticism was understandable that such initiatives had been taken only to draw political mileage ahead of the May 11 elections. But the move forward, despite criticism at home, pressure from abroad and threats of international sanctions, was firmly taken as the ground breaking initiative; it merited attention as well as seriousness as a pure commercial venture dictated by the universally acknowledged demand and supply principle. If implemented and sustained, both the agreements could be a turning point for Pakistan, and the region, because it would have multi-dimensional impact on the economy.

Though it would take almost two years to pump the direly needed gas, if the new government under Nawaz Sharif takes full interest in continuing it, it would give hope to an extremely energy deficient industry and inspire the potential investors to plan and invest to reap benefits from vast market of a country of 180 million people as well as neighbouring markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia. For Islamabad, the pipeline means energy security, which, in turn, means political stability as former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called it indispensable to eradicate Pakistan’s energy deficit. And if India, and later on China, joins the power cooperation partnership, and if the 2,000 km Gwadar-Kashghar motorway is built, the regional energy dynamism would certainly reshape into collective prosperity and coexistence.

Besides the pipeline agreement and change in the management of Gwadar Port, the grant of MFN status to India, the signing of Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, etc indicates Pakistan’s resolve for regional outreach aimed at moving the South and Central Asian regions towards shared prosperity in bilateral, sub-regional, regional and trans-regional frameworks. Such a commitment under Nawaz Sharif’s strong leadership can convince the US and world nations to recognise Pakistan’s needs to balance their own economic needs with its responsibilities as an ally. The handing over of Gwadar Port to a Chinese company is a reminder of both the importance and strength of Pakistan-China relations. The strength of this friendship and its steady growth are based squarely on the convergence of their strategic interests.

From a purely strategic point of view, the future prospects of Pakistan-China relations are quite bright, particularly after the Prime Minister’s recent China visit. It was against this background that during the fifth round of the Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue held in Beijing in November 2012, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister agreed that Pakistan and China needed to close ranks to face the extraordinary global and regional challenges. What we now need on our part is to create a secure environment that will serve long-term objectives associated with Balochistan’s vis-a-vis Pakistan’s economic development.

F Z KHAN,

Islamabad, July 18.