CPEC, is simply known as an economic corridor between China and Pakistan. It is a project linked with a greater economic corridor project known as One Belt One Road created by China. Which will integrate with Eurasia, a concept designed by the West and Russia for a long time. However, this description is not enough to fully explain CPEC. Before we go into the details, we need to first realize the factors, events and effects which led to the inception of CPEC.
Since the end of the second world war, United States of America emerged as a leading superpower. The Americans created the Marshall Plan to rebuild a war torn Europe and as well as establish its financial dominance in the region. Making the Europeans dependent upon the Americans. USA also entered Asia, clutching its claws in the Middle East and the Far East.
In the Far East the Americans entered the Pacific Ocean, creating its military bases on many islands along with Japan and South Korea. Almost occupying the Pacific Ocean in order to, according to the Americans to protect the so called free trade. In the Middle East the United States forced the world to trade oil with dollar only. Resulting the birth of the famous petrodollar gang. United State’s grip was further strengthened after the break up of the Soviet Union. As the United States of America become the only superpower in the world. This effect led the world to enter a uni-polar era, where the world was judged according to the values created by America and its allies.
However, since the 2008 financial crisis, the Arab Spring, Russia’s intervention in Syria and China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse. The cards once placed by the Americans on this world have now been discarded. Some learned people still not accept this, but the truth is the uni-polar world has ended and we are in a multi-polar world now.
In the uni-polar era the United States made many decisions to maintain its monopoly in the world and the majority of them backfired, as well as resulting several chain reactions throughout the globe (For example, the Arab Spring). One of those decisions was to further advance in the Pacific Ocean, especially near the South China Sea. Due to such high military presence in that area, with warships roaming all the time. For China it was a bit challenging to conduct trade through the South China Sea along with the American navy there.
As a result of this China got closer to Russia, as China looked for an alternative route through Central Asia. Hence, China and Russia came on board with the concept of Eurasia. Which resulted in the birth of One Belt One Road project, a project which aims to revive the old silk road and to create a new silk road as well. For China the situation turned even more fortunate, when the Chinese discovered another alternative route linked with One Belt One Road. A route through a country in the Subcontinent, Pakistan.
China decided to create a trade route, which will start from Kashgar, Xinjiang, China and will enter Pakistan through the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Eventually reaching the Gwadar port city in Baluchistan. From where both Pakistan and China will have an effective maritime shipment to the markets of the Middle East and Africa. This project linking Chinese markets to West Asia and Africa is know as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or simply CPEC. This is a very, very complex project, but I will do my best to explain this in its simplest form. To understand CPEC we need to first know what are the elements of this project. Then we need to understand its economic and political influence.
The concept of CPEC was already being discussed during the president Pervez Musharraf’s era in Pakistan and a trade route was designed during the Pakistan’s Peoples Party’s government. However, during the current Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s government, the official CPEC announcement was made during China’s president Xi Jinping state visit to Pakistan in April 2015 and an agreement was signed.
The signed agreement is a $46 billion worth project. Which is around 20% of Pakistan’s total GDP. This is a project based on a massive scale and includes railways, roadways, energy and infrastructure projects.
The roadway projects include Karakorum Highway, Eastern Alignment and Western Alignment. The Karakorum Highway starts within China from Kashgar city, then entering Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region and ending in Hasan Abdal city near the Buhran interchange on the motorway. From Buhran interchange there are two routes. Firstly the Western Alignment, it will reach Gwadar port city through the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Secondly the Eastern Alignment, it will reach the Gwadar port city through the provinces of Punjab and Sindh.
The highly impressive modern designed railway projects include Khunjerab Railway, Main Line 1, Main Line 2 and Main Line 3. The most important so far is mainly the Khunjerab Railway. It starts from Lanxin Railway in Kashgar, Xinjiang province and ends in Pakistan’s city Havelian. Main Line 1 connects the Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, by a Karachi-Peshawar railway line. Main Line 2 connects the Sindh province and the Punjab province, by a Kotri-Attock railway line. Finally the Main Line 3 connects the Sindh province with the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, by Rohri-Chaman railway line.
Pakistan’s total energy generation capacity is 24,830 MW (Mega Watts). However, the country still faces energy shortfalls of over 4,500 MW. Therefore, energy projects will be a major focus of CPEC. During the implementation of CPEC, it is expected to add 10,400 MW of electric energy generation in Pakistan. $33 billion is expected to be invested in the energy sector of the country through CPEC. Pakistan has set the goal to provide 25% of its electricity by means of renewable energy. Projects such as Jhimpir Wind Power Plant, Dawood Wind Power Plant, Suki Kinari Hydro Power Project, Karot Dam, Diamer-Bhasha Dam and Kohala Hydro Power Project are part of CPEC’s renewable energy projects. Along with this Liquefied Natural Gas power or simply LNG projects are also a key feature in CPEC. Especially the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.
In the infrastructure projects, many universities, hospitals, market areas, construction of ports and private investment in infrastructure are included. In the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan, some infrastructure projects have already started. CPEC will be completed more than half in 2025. Overall the project is expected to be fully completed by 2030.
As we already know CPEC is at the moment worth $46 billion, which is expected to further rise. Due to the massive roadways and railway projects. There will be a hyper level connectivity between China’s Xinjiang province and Pakistan.
Moreover, other trade routes of One Belt One Road will be connected with CPEC. Especially via the Central Asian states in the North of Pakistan. This connectivity will lead to different ethnic (and religious) groups to interact and establish easy trade. Since CPEC and other One Belt One Road initiatives are providing business loans, finance for start up capital and encouraging people through the mass media to get involved in business activity.
Mandarin and Russian language are gaining popularity in these regions. Mandarin has a greater importance since the majority of the trade will be with the Chinese. As people are learning Mandarin and even Russian, the language barrier is also lifting between the communities in the region.
Such factors combined altogether creates a very friendly business environment, along with easiness due to the connectivity. This environment of economic activity can produce high volumes of trade, several economic hubs and a massive variety of goods and services in all financial sectors.
CPEC is perhaps the most important project in terms of geopolitics in the new silk road under the One Belt One Road. Since by accessing the Gwadar port, China will increase its impact on the Middle East and Africa. Pakistan’s trade and diplomatic relations will also increase significantly with the Central Asian states which it did not have before. However, there are some countries worried of CPEC. The United States of America and unfortunately India, they consider CPEC as a major threat.
The United States who has deployed much of their navy in the Pacific Ocean to contain China are now worried. Since China has now a better alternative land route to access the world. CPEC adds more damage to the Americans, whereas China now can enter the Middle East via Gwadar port, as it provides an alternative port to the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi ports. Which is heavily under the United State’s influence.
India thinks CPEC is a threat to its national security. Firstly, they consider Pakistan an enemy state. Therefore, if Pakistan turns into a major economic hub. The Indians think it will strengthen their enemy. Secondly, the Indians fear a Karachi-Gwadar combination can downgrade India’s mega Mumbai port’s status in the future.
There is no doubt that CPEC is at the moment one of the greatest mega project active in the entire world. However, there are challenges. The United States have changed regimes in the Central Asian states before through the color revolutions. Afghanistan is still in a civil war. A majority of the countries in the region have unstable governments and the threat of terrorism is still at large in the region.
The United States has already launched a hybrid war in the region. As ISIS has occupied Tora Bora, a place in the white mountains of Afghanistan near Afghanistan-Pakistan Border. The United States military officials have also started to blame their failure on Pakistan on the still ongoing 16 year Afghan War. The United States has also secretly launched a trade war on China, since Moodys has recently downgraded China’s credit rating.
India is also participating in this hybrid war. Indian media are on a full anti CPEC campaign. Moreover, India is at the moment involved in border tensions with both China and Pakistan. Recently a captured Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav, has admitted India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing or simply RAW is involved in the financing of the Baluchistan independence movement and funding anti Pakistan terrorist organizations such as Jamaat Ul Ahrar.
It is almost surprising why India is against CPEC, whereas they could have easily got on board with the project. Since India is a part of the BRICS. It would have been a brilliant move for India if they had connected the states of Himachal Pardesh, Punjab, Rajistan and Gujrat, which are along the Pakistan-India border. This could have also helped to reduce some heat between the two countries. Which they still can! This would have added a massive boost to the already fastest growing economy in the world.
However, unfortunately the current Hindu nationalist government under prime minister Narendra Modi is not only anti CPEC but is also destabilizing Pakistan and destroying the well established China-India diplomatic relations.
CPEC is almost a like a gift from the heavens, as it has been produced out of the blue. Due to the multi-polar world effect. CPEC has not only produced (and will) a boost to Pakistan’s economy, but also upgrades the infrastructure, health, education and security status of the country. Many youngsters have left the Taliban and other terrorist groups to participate in business activities, created by CPEC. Due to CPEC for the first time in Pakistan. Many women from the tribal areas are now getting education and they are also participating in areas such as politics, sports, arts and business, which they could not do before.
All eyes are now on Pakistan, as the United States and India will take advantage of the friction between the civil military relations in the country. However, I think CPEC will succeed, but the country will face civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attacks. Eventually, Pakistan will overcome, take note that CPEC is a project conducted by the states of Pakistan and China. It does not depend on a certain government because its implementation is included in the country’s national action plan. No matter which type of government comes, the state of Pakistan will continue CPEC. In recent years the judiciary in the country has strengthened to establish the rule of law in the country. Along with this the Pakistan armed forces have weakened terrorists within the country with successful operations such as Zarb-E-Azb and the continuing operation Radd-Ul-Fasaad.
India’s hybrid war on CPEC will come to an end when Modi will be gone. Since a more sensible government in India is expected. Whereas the United State is facing an internal political rift as the country is divided into pro and anti Donald Trump forces. Moreover, the NATO has also started to witness divisions from within as Turkey is acting independently of NATO on Middle East policy. As well as the criticism the United States is facing from Germany, France and the European Union officials, on the new anti Russian sanctions. Due to such factors the hybrid war on CPEC will fail and the new multi-polar world will continue.