London: Dubbed as project of the century. CPEC is the cornerstone of OBOR or One belt one road initiative. China’s dream of reviving ancient silk road network is slowly taking shapes.China Pakistan friendship highway runs from China’s Kashgar to Pakistan’s Gwadar port. Over 800 miles long highway is the spinal cord of the project.
For China , CPEC is the crown jewel of its OBOR project. China has already invested billions of dollars and according to media reports will reach well over $60 bn by 2019. Project was Inaugurated on 22nd May, 2013 so far has been party operational.
According to Pakistani officials this project will create over 2 to 3 million jobs in Pakistan in next couple of decades. All seems well but for common Pakistanis working on the Chinese side the highway of friendship is one way.
Trucks full of Chinese goods going towards Pakistan, only few returns with Pakistani goods. Report shows export to china from Pakistan fell by 8% in later half of 2016 and import increased by 29 %.
According to businessman Murad Shah “China says our friendship is as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the sea, but it has no heart. “
Even though Chinese Premium Xi said “China’s global trade plan is open to all and no threat to any”, Murad Shah is not convinced .
“There is no benefit for Pakistan. It’s all about expanding China’s growth,” he said sorrowfully.
Import duty for bringing goods in China is higher and not constant. No one knows what will be the charges tomorrow. One of many uncertainty worries Pakistani businessmen.
Even complains of forced closure of mosques and one year ban on shops if they find any material or imports that has Arabic scriptures on it. Police has been authorized to check mobile phones for religious contents.
Friendship sounds better even though culturally and language wise they are almost galaxy apart. Pakistan is a strict Islamic county which juggled between democracy and military dictatorship. No Pakistani PM has ever completed a full five year term. Most of them have been ousted either by military, supreme court, their own party or have been assassinated.
Where as china has always run by communist party. Chinese people likes to eat Pork, likes to drink and goes to karaoke which are all prohibited in Islam. Even dresses are different. It would take time to get used to in Pakistan.
Recently a Chinese couple have been kidnapped by Islamic militants and later on killed.
Even though Pakistan denies the existence of ISIS in their soil. But according Amaq the news agency of ISIS that its fighters has kidnapped Mr. Lee ad Ms. Meng and Later they killed them. Which prompted a swift action by Pak army , Intelligence agencies and other law enforcement personal.
There was a time when Pakistan growth were way ahead than any other country in Asia. In the 60’s Pakistan was different, people were educated, wealth were equally distributed amongst the people, well almost.
Pakistan was different back in the 80’s.
Till the 80’s Pakistan was a force to be recon with in ASIA but then something changed drastically. China’s rise was quick , swift and robust. In last 30 years China built itself and made itself an export giant where as Pakistan wasted time and barely moving forward.
Plan for a corridor between China and Pakistan dates back to 1950’s. As a result Karakoram highway was built in 1959. US presence in Pacific ocean always jitters china.
China’s 80% to 90 % trade goes through Indian ocean. China understands that from Arabian sea to Indian ocean region is dominated by Indian navy and can commission two carrier battle group at any given notice.
USA and its allies has control over pacific ocean as well as Strait of Malacca.If they block the Strait , china will be cut off from middle eastern oil imports which they heavily relies up on. Export of goods to Africa will be hampered. Pakistan gave china an opportunity to connect itself with an deep water sea port. China desperately needed an alternative land route , years of negotiation and result is CPEC.
Some says Pakistan has always been used by the western countries, at least china is building roads , ports, going to create jobs.
But one can never be sure of vested interest. Specially when PSX has sold 40% of strategic shares to a Chinese consortium comprises of China Financial Futures Exchange Company Limited, Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange for a scrap value of $85 million dollars in 2016.
Chinese companies are in a shopping spree. Pakistani Assets like K-electric is one such example.
Through CPEC , China would like to keep India occupied on a balancing act by arming Pakistan economically , militarily and also profits through safe trade route. Its a win win for both on paper but How much this project will really benefit common Pakistanis, only time can tell.
Source : NDTV | South China Morning Post | NYT
* Not exact representation. For actual representation one can search in google or visit http://i.dawn.com/medium/2016/01/568c654b3b214.jpg.