As an initiative of Chinese concept of Belt & Road ( B&R) to improve global linkages and trade,China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) , the only bi lateral initiative of B&R was announced in 2013.CPEC is primarily a regional framework of connectivity as part of the BRI which is a framework of intercontinental connectivity. CPEC is perceived not only to benefit China and Pakistan but will have positive impact on the neighboring countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian Republic. The focus on enhancement of geographical linkages with improved road, rail and air transportation system will promote frequent and free exchanges of growth and people to people contacts. The project also aims at enhancing understanding through academic, cultural and regional knowledge and activity of higher volume of flow of trade and businesses. This is likely to have more optimal businesses and enhancement of co-operation by win-win model and will result in well connected, integrated region of shared destiny, harmony and development. CPEC when implemented will be a ‘ game changer’ for the people of Pakistan and Southern Chinese region, mostly populated by Muslims. It will improve their lives by building an economic corridor promoting bilateral connectivity, construction, explore potential bilateral investment, economic and trade, logistics and people to people contact for regional connectivity. While it is considered a 60 billion dollar project so far around 20+ billion dollar worth of projects have been undertaken. The project has the completion date of 2030.
The areas of cooperation envisioned under CPEC include:
- Integrated Transport & IT systems including Road, Rail, Port, Air and Data Communication Channels
- Energy Cooperation
- Spatial Layout, Functional Zones, Industries and Industrial Parks
- Agricultural Development
- Socio-Economic Development (Poverty Alleviation, Medical Treatment, Education, Water Supply, Vocational Training)
- Tourism Cooperation & People to People Communication
- Cooperation in Livelihood Areas
- Financial Cooperation
- Human Resource Development
For the implementation of CPEC projects the two sides have agreed to set up a 1+4 cooperation mode in which the two sides take CPEC as the Core while prioritizing development of Gwadar, Energy, Transport Infrastructure and Industrial Cooperation. The two countries have set up a mechanism of coordination for the construction of CPEC.
The goals set in the Long-Term Plan of CPEC are divided into short, medium and long term as given below.
- By 2020, the CPEC strive to take the initial shape, major bottlenecks to Pakistan’s economic and social development shall be basically addressed, and the CPEC shall start to boost the economic growth along it for both countries.
- By 2025, the CPEC building strive to be basically done, the industrial system approximately complete, major economic functions brought into play in a holistic way, the people’s livelihood along the CPEC significantly improved, regional economic development more balanced, and all the goals of Vision 2025 of Pakistan achieved.
- By 2030, the CPEC building strive to be entirely accomplished, the endogenous mechanism for sustainable economic growth in place, the CPEC’s role in stimulating economic growth in Central Asia and South Asia brought into holistic play, and South Asia shall grow into an international economic zone with global influence.
CPEC has largely achieved the short-term objectives (almost 60 percent projects have been completed so far), however the speed of implementation and further investments have slowed down for several reasons. Given below are some constrains which have been influencing the speedy construction of CPEC:-
- The geo-political environment in South Asia is inherently unstable. More over the Indian interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and its open opposition to the construction of CPEC has adversely affected.
- International players especially the US and its allies which have opposed construction of BRI have been opposing the CPEC and creating hindrances both by open opposition and tacit sabotage.
- The political instability and divergent orientation of various political parties have created several controversies from the beginning. The 18th Constitutional amendment has given greater powers to the provinces and the smaller and less developed provinces have grievances against the Central Government and Punjab province.This has resulted in demanding more shares in CPEC projects by the smaller provinces.
- The religious extremism which is reflected in the shape of terrorist organizations such as Tahrek e Taliban ( Pakistan )(TPP) and some others are a constant threat to the state and CPEC.
- The management capacity of the Pakistani bureaucracy and other organizations involved in the CPEC is relatively limited and different from the common Chinese practices and speed to accomplish tasks.
- A lot of negative propaganda initiated by the enemies of China and Pakistan have created grave misperceptions which must be removed by building counter narrative.
During recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China, in February, 2022 most of the irritants in the furtherance of CPEC have been removed and work on Phase II projects will now commence . This includes an oil refinery at Gawadar, deep sea port and setting up of mega technical training facility. Prospects for future development of CPEC would largely depend on mitigating the above mention threats and introducing stringent reforms in institutional and financial sectors besides creating political and financial stability in the country.