The Geoeconomics of CPEC
CPEC is a landmark in the development of Pakistan-China relationship. Pakistan is a significant strategic partner for China in consideration of getting access to the Central Asian economies, Southern Asian region, Africa and the Middle East. The deep-sea port of Gwadar offers direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond (Abid and Ashfaq, 2015). With this insight, Pakistan allowed Chinese direct investment as China is elevating her levels of economic development and her strategic status in the Indian Ocean. In the milieu of modifying the regional and international scenarios, CPEC,intends to safeguard common concerns. It also represents a model of collaboration, coordination and strategic communication and conversation between China and Pakistan to reinforce connectivity in the field of trade and economy.It aims at developing the capacity and scope in the region, to fulfill increasing energy needs and boost exports.
The government used the assets and grants under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) not only to overcome the energy crisis and infrastructur e-building but also to counter the pressure from the US, which was growing with the rejuvenation of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The previous government also tried to maintain Pakistan’s traditional policy of keeping a balance in its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has possibly tried to revise Pakistan’s Middle East policy completely. There is an impression in national and international policy circles that, in the process of economic recovery.
The $10 billion Saudi pledge for a refinery and petrochemicals complex in Gwadar has not only come as cause for caution for Iran, but also China. The latter has concerns that it may lead to Saudi-Iranian proxy warfare in the coastal region, at the bottleneck of CPEC. The Baloch in Gwadar also see the refinery in the context of Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry. They believe it will bring in US influence due to the common strategic objectives of the Saudis and Americans against Iran. Though the refinery would be set up about 100 kilometres away from the Pakistan-Iran border, it will continue to agitate China.China and Pakistan can work towards connecting Chabahar and Gwadar ports, to balance the Iran-Afghanistan-India bond of Chabahar port. China and Iran both allude to the ports’ connectivity through joint initiatives. China considers a trade relationship with Iran via Gwadar as one of the major outcomes of CPEC. Pakistan should also speed up the transnational energy projects with Afghanistan, apart from taking initiatives to boost bilateral business and commerce.
Pakistan always supports the talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US. This stance is widely welcomed. If the settlement is achieved, it could possibly become an intensely positive contribution to the regional peace .But unfortunately many in Pakistan are also arguing about what this country has earned so far, through the facilitation of a peace process.
An IMF bailout package could be one but, at the same time, the US is not willing to reduce pressure on Pakistan on multiple strategic fronts. It is supposed that Pakistan could have gained much more, had it extended its support for the peace process a few years ago, when the Obama administration was desperate to achieve a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan.
It is not the economy alone that has pushed Pakistan to a restricted geopolitical position but also the militant groups. Some analysts even suspect that the Afghan Taliban will remain a reliable ally of Pakistan after entering into a peace agreement in Afghanistan. It is absolute that Pakistan has done, what it had been avoiding for several years by bringing the Taliban to the table. Nevertheless the Internal security and economic challenges, the international compulsions and constraints are also bearing upon Pakistan’s policy responses.
Pakistan needs to develop a geoeconomics framework of pact with its neighbours and allies. Under the compulsion of the Saudi Vision 2030, this is sure that Saudi investment is coming, which is not hooked with any geostrategic strings, and that it would be for economic purposes only. Pakistan must not allow any proxy group to use its land against its neighbours. Though it would be challenging to maintain such a relationship with an assertive Saudi regime. Yet Pakistan can maintain a balance through a China-Pakistan-Iran economic partnership.
The government has already formed an internal supporting frame of the country’s economy. Which is on its way to configure the structure. The authorities are keeping the people updated with every new development about CPEC and people are also aware that this project is the gateway to prosperity for Pakistan. But, one should also keep in mind that Pakistan needs long-term economic reforms to get relief in the days ahead. The future of this country depends on its capacity to pay back Chinese loan.