SINO-PAK RELATIONS & CPEC

Courtesy:-   Sultan M Hali


The traditional and time tested Sino-Pak friendship has been cast in stone. The people of China and Pakistan have rejoiced each other’s achievements and provided solace when either was grieved. During China’s formative years, the Occident treated China spitefully, denying it recognition as well as its rightful place in the UN Security Council. Ironically, the illegal state of Taiwan with a meager population of 21 million was recognized as China while the 1.35 billion population of mainland China was ignored. In those dark days, Pakistan strongly advocated China’s case for recognition and served as a window for China to the world. It was through the good offices of Pakistan that the ice between USA and China melted in 1972 and US President Nixon’s visit to China was facilitated.

During the 1965 and 1971 Pakistan-India wars, China sided with Pakistan and provided military hardware when the west imposed arms embargo on Pakistan. Whenever either country has been struck by a calamity, the other has rushed to its aid. In 2005 Pakistan was struck by a massive earthquake while in 2010 and 2011, severe deluge devastated KPK, Punjab and Sindh. In 2013, an earthquake wreaked havoc in coastal areas of Balochistan while in 2014; floods inflicted damage in Punjab. On each of these occasions, China lent a helping hand in a big way and continues to contribute to the rehabilitation of the affectees. In 2008, a devastating earthquake rocked Sichuan Province in China. Pakistan sent its medical team and tents to the affected area.

Currently Pakistan is facing major challenges through terror attacks, economic meltdown, acute energy shortage, unemployment and lawlessness. To make matters worse, the West has been castigating Pakistan for not doing enough in the war on terror despite its enormous sacrifices. China has not only stood up for Pakistan, even in its bleakest moments but let its critics know that it supports Pakistan through thick and thin. With the drawdown of international forces from Afghanistan, China is moving in for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and is venturing to provide Pakistan its rightful place in the current milieu of Afghan reconciliation with the Taliban.

In May 2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid a visit to Pakistan and floated the idea of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This was a unique opportunity for the uplift of Pakistan to resolve its myriad problems and its leaders wholeheartedly welcomed the Chinese Premier’s benevolent proposal. After assuming the mantle of Prime Minister, quitenaturally, Beijing was his first port of call and the CPEC Project was finalized. In order to fast track the project, China and Pakistan have established the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on the Long-term Planning of CPEC, and set up three working groups of energy, transportation infrastructure and comprehensive planning in JCC. Both sides have reached initial consensus on the planning and construction of the Economic Corridor, based on a series of discussions and consultations. 

It is unfortunate that certain quarters in Pakistan are having misconceptions regarding the CPEC. Without delving deeper in the details of the project, they are criticizing the planning and raising unwarranted objections. President Xi Jinping was considering a state visit to Pakistan last September but the political turmoil in Pakistan deterred the finalization of the plans. On the eve of the proposed visit, this scribe and three other senior journalists were invited by the Chinese Foreign office to China and received comprehensive briefings regarding the project. It is essential to address the baseless apprehensions regarding the CPEC project. 

Firstly, constantly being referred to as a “corridor”, CPEC is not just one highway or road. It is a comprehensive network, which covers entire Pakistan; hence every province will benefit from it. Secondly, it is not merely a thoroughfare but incorporates numerous projects, including Gwadar Port, energy, trade, transportation and infrastructure. These projects have been planned to address the acute energy shortage being faced by the people of Pakistan, enhance economic activity, provide livelihood to the people and augment the communication infrastructure. 

Mindlessly, the detractors of the project propagate that the government has changed the route of the CPEC. They claim that there was a design of the “original line” of CPEC going through Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the current CPEC mainly goes through Punjab and Sindh and bypasses the above two provinces.

Nothing could be farther from the truth because according to the minutes of the 1st meeting of CPEC joint working group on transport infrastructure, the alignment of CPEC was agreed to start from Kashgar in China, through Khunjerab, Thakot, Mansehra, leading to Islamabad and afterwards by joining Lahore and Multan it goes up to Sukkur. At Sukkur, the Corridor is divided into two branches, first via Dera Allah Yar, Khuzdar, Nag, and Panjgur up to Gwadar. The second branch goes up toKarachi either via M-9 or M-7 and connects Gwadar by coastal highway.

The purpose of building CPEC is to bring benefits to all the people of the whole Pakistan, including Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Actually, some projects in the two provinces are well under way. For instance, in Balochistan, China is speeding up the flagship project of Gwadar port and promoting the construction of east-bay expressway and InternationalAirport. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, China is actively advancing the KKH Phase II. China is conducting feasibility studies with Pakistan on upgrading of Main Line 1 and Havelian Dry Port project. Both sides have successfully built Gomal Zam Dam, Khan-Khwar Hydropower Station, Duber-Khwar Hydropower Station. Tarbela Dam Phase IV is now under construction and projects such as Suki-Kinari Hydropower Station and Keyal-Khwar Hydropower Station are to be built. The projects under construction and to be built will yield the capacity of more than 9000MW, which will greatly ease the electricity shortage and bring tremendous benefits to the local people.

Pakistan has an unparalleled opportunity to overcome its challenges through Chinese munificence. Let us not spurn the gesture by doubting either the Chinese or our government’s intentions since ultimately the whole of Pakistan will reap the benefits through CPEC.

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