Image Attribute: Once only a small fishing village, Gwadar port is now the crown jewel in the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Photo Credit: Syed M. Rafiq (Flickr Creative Commons).
Pakistan's top government officials including civilian and military leaders traveled to the country's southwest port city of Gwadar on Sunday (Nov 13, 2016) to open a new international trade route by flagging off a Chinese ship that's exporting goods to the Middle East and Africa from the newly built port.
The parts of a multi-billion-dollar trade route between China and Pakistan have been opened, with the first Chinese trade caravan of 50 container trucks arrived Pakistan's port city of Gwadar via Khunjerab Pass, Karakoram Highway which happens to part of a long-disputed territory of Kashmir.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment project, is heralded as a ‘game changer’ for Pakistan’s economy and regional cooperation. Being a crucial part of a major development initiative led by China, known as ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR), to connect Asia with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the CPEC is much linked to hopes, interests, as well as regional and global geopolitics.
Depicted as a new economic lifeline of Pakistan, the 3,000km CPEC is supposed to provide the essential link between the ‘land based belt and the sea road’. In order to do so, the CPEC will connect Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with Gwadar Port on the Balochistan coast in Pakistan’s southwest. The route cuts across the high road over Khunjerab Pass, situated more than 5,000 meters above sea level. Once a part of the ancient Silk Route, this road will become a vital link for China to Gwadar. It is being built with Chinese help to become part of a new maritime Silk Route.
According to the plan, the China is investing USD $46bn through CPEC, which will be implemented through a ‘1+4’ cooperation structure: the Economic Corridor at the center and the Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial collaboration as the four key areas.
Image Attribute: Gwadar East Bay Map Overlay / (c) DigitalGlobe / Google
"This investment will help to turn around not Pakistan's economy but also it will enable Pakistan to become self-sufficient in energy and improve its infrastructure," Ahsan Iqbal, minister for planning and development of Pakistan, told Al Jazeera.
According to the supporters of this project, CPEC happens to be a one-time opportunity for Pakistan to resolve its power-supply shortages, and for the first time to establish a nationwide multi-modal logistic network.
However, local Pakistani manufacturers, under the Organisation for Advancement and Safeguard of Industrial Sector (OASIS), say the CPEC poses new challenges for the domestic industrial sector with respect to unfair trade practices like dumping, possibly acting against interests of the indigenous industries.
According to Prof. Inayat Khan of the University of Peshawar in his article - "Pakistan will benefit out of the investment provided that decisions relating to Economic Corridor and power related projects are taken to the satisfaction of the Federating Units as major stakeholders."
Also, Dr. Siegfried O. Wolf, a prominent South Asia expert from SADF Brussels, sounded a word of caution in his earlier report - "If measures in this direction will be not successfully carried out, the CPEC will further entrench the military in the country’s politics and subsequently, harm any attempt to bring the country back into the process of democratic transition."
Based on reporting from Al Jazeera, Dawn, Graphiq, and Reuters