THE China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an ambitious project that aims at changing the geo-economic dynamics of Pakistan-China relations and augmenting the trading activity in the region. It anticipates economic growth, meeting the energy shortfall requirements, employment generation, foreign direct investment, infrastructure development, promotion of tourism and others. The multi-billion project offers a long-term investment in Pakistan involving the regional countries as well. However, the project is being challenged by domestic controversies and external opposition. In this scenario if these challenges are effectively tackled, it may lead to economic interdependence that would be climacteric for peace and economic development for the region.
The vision behind CPEC is to improve life of the people of Pakistan and China by building economic cooperation, logistics and people-to-people contact for regional connectivity. Moreover, it includes integrated transport and IT system, communication channels, agricultural development and poverty alleviation. It incorporates tourism, financial cooperation, human resource development and others. After the completion of the Corridor, it will become a primary gateway for trade among China, East Africa and the Middle East in particular. It is expected that this Corridor will help cut twelve thousand kilometres route. There are myriads of benefits of CPEC that are stimulating the hope for bright future of the corridor, the journey would not be without hurdles as there are several intrinsic and extrinsic challenges that are an impediment to the churning out of CPEC.
First and foremost challenge domestically is an absence of rule of law. The basic purpose of rule of law is to provide security of life and free movement to people. Pakistan has been ranked 106th in terms of rule of law experienced by the citizens, getting position on Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Egypt, Cambodia and Venezuela. Without rule of law sustained development remains an elusive goal; peace, investment, development are all linked with the values of law. Law and order situation is so inadequate in Pakistan that international as well as domestic investors are reluctant to invest in Pakistan. China-Pakistan economic corridor only could become a game changer, if Pakistan succeeded.
Second major threat to the CPEC project is political instability in the country that has become a serious problem in Pakistan. Political firmness is pre-requisite for the economic growth and development of the country. Uncertainty is ahead of Pakistan political crisis. No Prime Minister could hold the office for five years since independence in 1947. Resultantly security issues and political instability arise in Pakistan leading to military interference in the state affairs getting ground for a military coup. Thus political uncertainty unless not done away with, would continue to remain a challenge for the CPEC projects implementation. Investment will be withdrawn from CPEC if there is any political turmoil in the country. The third major obstacle to implementation progress of CPEC is an institutional imbalance.
Pakistan is a country where military has ruled for around 35 years out of 70 years. Throughout the three martial law regimes, the Constitution of Pakistan had been abrogated, suspended or held in abeyance. Presently, the CPEC is facing tremendous security challenges. In order to guarantee a secure environment for the CPEC development, military is expanding its power. This phenomenon significantly affects the civil-military relations and civilian control over the military that is challenging the process of democratic transition. The need has arisen that the military should be kept aside from the interfering in the political matters of the country. So that the government might make policies in the way people want. The fourth serious challenge which CPEC is facing is inter-provincial grievances. It is alleged that Punjab gets lion’s share in CPEC projects at the cost of other provinces. It fashioned rifts between the federal government and the provinces.
The major conflict was the change of route in the KP. Former Federal Government wanted to build eastern route first which passes through the Central Punjab, despite the fact that eastern route is longer than western route which would be more costly. In this connection, Punjab province would get the most benefit, depriving other provinces their due share. China urged Pakistani leaders to resolve issues over CPEC project. CPEC is crucial for the country, it should not be made controversial by saying that the entire country and all the provinces would benefit from it, particularly backward areas of the KP and Balochistan. Fifth major challenge towards implementation of CPEC is the unrest in Balochistan province. Due to the fact that Gwadar port is located in Balochistan, the ongoing insurgency in the province poses crucial challenges to the success of CPEC project. Consequently, the benefits of CPEC investment can be accurately measured if its impact on terrorism can be calculated.
Apart from domestic challenges, CPEC project implementation is facing several international challenges as well. The foremost external challenge to the Corridor is India’s belligerent attitude towards CPEC. Indian felonious demand is that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory, therefore; route of CPEC passing through that territory is unjustified. Another considerable concern within India is that it sees Gwadar a deep-sea port as a part of China’s string of pearls basis that extends from its eastern coast to the Arabian Sea. China is also developing ports in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that are considered a potential military challenge to India. India perceives that in future China can block sea access to India byburgeoning such ports. Consequently, India is unhappy with the development of CPEC and trying to sabotage CPEC by playing its card in Balochistan.