The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an assortment of infrastructure projects currently under development in Pakistan with a cumulative value of all CPEC projects in excess of $62 billion. It is a bilateral agreement that is expected to bring massive economic benefits to both countries.
China sees Pakistan as her longstanding and committed ally. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Pakistan and China have successfully maintained cordial ties muddling through all challenging circumstances and serving their national interests.
As Pakistan’s physiographic feature placed her at the junction of South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and Western China, she is sited in a region which is strategically significant for world trade. She proposes the shortest route to China towards Middle Eastern and European countries and plays a vital role in transit economy.
China depends a great deal on Middle Eastern states to satiate her energy needs. Presently, Pakistan and China have agreed to build an economic corridor; a multi-dollar’s project, the most China has ever invested in any foreign country. With China Pakistan Economic Corridor and Gwadar port being functional the shipping cost would be reduced and delivery time for China to reach Middle East and beyond will be cut short.
China has a plan of reviving the historic trade routes, as President Xi Jinping looks forward to connect China once again with Caspian region and European states on one hand and South Asia and Middle East on the other. Having a plan of creating three corridors: central, northern and southern which will pass through Xinjiang, it will connect China to Russia and former soviet-states, Europe, and Pakistan.
Gwadar is the most prominent piece of the puzzle, and it is believed that CPEC will make ‘Gwadar on the matrix of intense geo-strategic competition’. Without CPEC it is hard to imagine China investing in Pakistan on such an extent and because of it; China energy supply will be much faster since it will provide a shorter route compared to a 12,900km route via sea.
Access to Arabian Sea through Pakistan will not just benefit China, but it will be also a chance for landlocked countries in Central Asia to benefit from the corridor as well.
CPEC will boost the regional connectivity in Pakistan since the route will pass through every province of Pakistan, which also means the underdeveloped areas of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakthunhawa, Baluchistan, and FATA will have a chance to be developed rapidly, and play vital role for the emerging economy of the country. However, the main point here is that Gwadar will be the one end of the Corridor, and will give China’s western provinces a gateway to the sea.
BENEFITS TO PAKISTAN:
The question that is usually raised is that is there any benefit for Pakistan in this whole project, or is China just using Pakistan for its own economic success? People who raise these questions certainly lack research on the CPEC project. Although potentially the project could be ‘more’ beneficial for China, but that does not mean Pakistan will have no advantage in it whatsoever.
Anybody who knows the history and struggle of Pakistan knows that what a big opportunity this is for Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy is primarily based on its agriculture sector, and relies on few other factors. Since the rise of terrorism in Pakistan, this posed a huge threat to the security of Pakistan and along with it, the failing energy sector of Pakistan which became a huge issue for the industrial development of Pakistan. This led to a decrease in foreign direct investment as well, but with CPEC, a huge increase in net foreign direct investment in occurring, the biggest FDI ever in Pakistan, and it has a potential to change the future of Pakistan for good.
KEY CPEC MOMENTS:
April 2015 - Pakistan and China signed an agreement to commence work on the $46 billion of development projects. CPEC is announced as “an economic and development project for the benefit of the people of the region”.
September 2015 - Completed projects include a bypass consisting of two large bridges and five kilometres worth of tunnels.
November 2016 - On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.
March 2017 - An agreement is settled to build $1.5 bn oil refinery, irrigation projects, a $2 billion motorway spanning from Chitral to DI Khan.
July 2017 - $1.8 billion Sahiwal Coal Power Project became fully operational.
September 2017- More than $14 billion worth of CPEC projects were under construction.
March 2018- Pakistan began construction of many energy CPEC projects while focus switched more to hydro-power projects.
October 2018 - Saudi Arabia enters partnership within CPEC countries to help finance three road infrastructure and energy projects. Three agreements worth $16.1 million is divided to fund health and education projects.
February 2019 - Saudi Arabia commits $20bn to Pakistan and CPEC including the building of a new oil refinery in Gwadar. A new shipyard is commissioned while the construction of a new mega airport for Gwadar is set to begin in April.
March 2019 - Prime Minister Imran Khan performs ground breaking ceremony to initiate the new Gwadar Airport construction. The state of the art airport will be the biggest in Pakistan at the cost of $230 million.
August 2019 - New planned railway network from China and Afghanistan to Gwadar deep sea port under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The entire package is worth around $2.3bn.
January 2020- The first Liquefied Petroleum Gas plant in Gwadar becomes fully functional