Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Giant Leap for Pak-China Friendship

April 23, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The People’s Republic of China and Pakistan’s long lasting friendship is unique and a laudable model between a small and a giant neighbor. Yet it is premised on mutual respect and equality. That inimitable friendship has always stood the test of time. 

It has taken a giant leap with the two days historic visit (April 20-21) of the Chinese president Xi Jinping to Pakistan. This monumental visit that was postponed earlier has culminated into a phenomenal and far-reaching outcome for the two traditional friends as well as neighbors.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would further cement and strengthen the existing bonds of unalloyed cooperation and mutuality of interests between the two neighbors. It would unfold an era of unprecedented prosperity and economic boom in Pakistan otherwise a poor country with obsolete and inadequate infrastructure.

The basic understanding on these projects was reached during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China in July 2013 when eight watershed agreements were inked between the two countries. The CPEC was central to those agreements. The Prime Minister then said that “his vision was to extend motorways and communication links not only to Kabul but also to Central Asia and South Asian region”.

The sworn opponents and defiant detractors of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his government should have the magnanimity to felicitate him for the dazzling achievements accruing from Chinese Prime minister Xi Jinping’s visit. It is indeed one of those spectacular visits between the two states that we must relish and be proud of and which has laid down the robust foundations of renewed friendship and economic collaboration.

Lt us not obviate the stark fact that China is an emerging super power and not in distant future is going to be a counterpart of the United States thus far a sole super power.  This future spectacle is betokened from Chinese galloping economic miracle and by the glaring fact that it is a lender to the United States that has been dominating the international arena economically and militarily since World War II.

 During the Chinese Prime minister’s visit, both the countries signed 51 agreements that cover all facets of speedy development in Pakistan. China has pledged $ 46 billion to modernize the primitive and ramshackle infrastructure of Pakistan. The Corridor package envisages $34 billion investment in energy sector and around $11 billion in infrastructure sector and communication.

On both sides of this Corridor, the industrial and economic zones would be created that in return would create countless jobs in Pakistan besides facilitating its entry into the fold of advanced industrialized nations with modern infrastructure of Roads and highways. Now these projects would be primarily built by Chinese engineers and Pakistani counterparts would be assisting in that huge venture. The Karakorum Highway connecting Pakistan and China would be further widened while the rail network between Karachi and Peshawar will be upgraded.

All the projects are scheduled to be completed by 2017 which is barely two years far away. The Chinese engineers and technicians have the reputation of completing the projects well within the prescribed time frame. With the projects to be completed by workforce of both China and Pakistan, the quality of work, accountability and meeting of the deadlines would be ensured.

Emphasizing the significance of the Gawadar project, the Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said in a press briefing that “The Gawadar Port Project is the center-piece of Pak-China strategic partnership with its strategic location and potential for becoming the future economic and energy hub”.

The Gawadar Port (presently being operated by China) like other projects would be completed and modernized by 2017 at a cost of 622 million dollars. The coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects would be launched at a cost $15.5 billion and thus 10,400 megawatts of electricity would be added to the national grid of Pakistan.

The CPEC would create some 3000 kilometer long stretch of roads, railway and pipelines and would connect Chinese Sinkiang province with Gawadar Port. A fiber optic cable would be laid between Sinkiang province and Pakistan’s cities of Rawalpindi/ Islamabad. By 2017 a six lane motorway between Karachi and Lahore would be completed by the Chinese companies. Besides, public transportation would be upgraded in six major cities of Pakistan.

Thus far, this is the largest investment ever made by Peoples Republic of China in a foreign country. The overriding motivation for such an unprecedented financial commitment is driven by the Geo-strategic location of Pakistan and also by the fact that modernizing of Pakistan’s infrastructure would be hugely beneficial also for China and would bring windfall economic benefits to her.

At present 60 percent petroleum for China is exported from the Persian Gulf to the Chinese port of Shanghai traversing a sea voyage of some 16000 Kilometers and the time period of several months. The ships carrying oil are always exposed to the vulnerability of attacks from pirates, inclement weather and similar unforeseen hurdles.

With the creation of the economic Corridor not only that the transportation of oil and other merchandise for China from Gawadar port would be entirely safe but would reach destinations within days with unstinted supply round the year. 

With The gigantic network of infrastructure particularly the development of Gawadar and Highways, Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity would be guaranteed. In case of an external aggression against Pakistan, China would protect the built up assets and the network to ensure the uninterrupted supply linkage between Gawadar and China.  

Moreover the network would be extremely useful for both Pakistan and China to reach the Central Asian markets. Also in return the Central Asian countries and caucuses could use those facilities to reach the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Finally let me compare the CPEC with the Marshall Plan through which the United States gave $13 billion (approximately $120 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the termination of the World War II. 

That timely and mammoth aid helped the devastated European states particularly Germany to rebuild their destroyed cities, Industries and road network. Look at the astounding progress and prosperity and socio- political stability ever since in Europe. Hopefully the fruition of CPEC would enable Pakistan to follow in the footsteps of Europe. Pakistan will be richer and stronger.

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