CPEC: another Marshall Plan?

Published: January 25, 2017
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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. PHOTO: FILE

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. PHOTO: FILE

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. PHOTO: FILE

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of Islamabad Policy Research Institute

Following the aborted attempt by an Indian submarine to penetrate Gwadar in November last year, two Chinese ships have been handed over to the Pakistan Navy by their Chinese counterparts for “the security of Gwadar”. Two more state-of-the-art ships are scheduled to follow soon.

This is a mere indication of Gwadar’s significance for China and CPEC. But the significance of this development is far reaching indeed. The Chinese Navy is finally breaking free of the US stranglehold on its east-west movement via the Malacca Straits.

After the Second World War, European economy was in tatters. The US decided to help reconstruct it. This was no altruistic move. Not only was it essential to thwart the creeping growth of Communism, an economic recovery of Europe was essential for the global economy to recover and the US to retain its economic and military supremacy.

Even more importantly, the US desperately needed the goods and services of Europe so as to continue to produce goods at economical rates. Interestingly, within two years of the commencement of the Marshall Plan, Nato, a military alliance, came into being.

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In November last, Alexander Bogdanov, head of Russia’s Federal Security Services, also visited Gwadar to “assess its utility for Russian ships”. Obviously, this could not have occurred without Chinese approval.

Meantime, China’s powerful Defence Minister, Chang Wangqwan, had visited Tehran for three days a week before Bogdanov’s visit to Gwadar.

All this as Trump is getting ready to assume office.

In a realigning world, is a Gwadar Pact consisting of China, Russia, and Pakistan, Iran and perhaps Afghanistan and some other countries replace the erstwhile Warsaw Pact?

Whether a military alliance finally emerges or not, an economic alliance based on the above-stated structure is a virtual certainty. Iran’s entrance is as certain as it is essential; logically Afghanistan should be a part of the economic and, if it emerges, the military alliance as well.

Due to being a prominent western neighbour, Afghanistan’s inclusion in any security related alliance is very important. But, being land-locked and economically dependent on commerce its inclusion for economic purposes might be its own compulsion.

CPEC and the European Recovery under the Marshall Plan have some striking similarities. In 1947, like now, the world is in an economic recession. Then, the US needed to create and retain markets for the glut it faced, now China does.

In 1947, Europe desperately needed a security alliance against Russia’s growing military might. Today, China is the waxing power and Pakistan needs a security alliance to counter the US-India strategic agreements.

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Russia is reasserting its global relevance but needs Chinese support. Iran, too, has just emerged from its isolation and its desire to return to maritime regional relevance will depend on Chinese support and assistance.

One important difference is that in 1947, the US had enough oil to export it to its European beneficiaries at cheap rates. Despite having signed the largest ever energy deal with Russia, China is still energy hungry. However, this merely serves to establish a mutual inter-dependence between Iran and China.

For all that CPEC seeks to do, Pakistan’s participation and Gwadar’s utility to its fullest capacity is an imperative.

Consequently, when critics refer to the economic unviability of some of the domestic projects under consideration, whether by Chinese firms or our own, or to the fact that Pakistan is borrowing from Chinese banks to undertake some projects, they do not advert to the fact that in such multi-purpose alliances, strategic interests could override economic ones; and thereby make them economically viable.

However, it is essential that each participant nation of any alliance must safeguard its own interests. While I am sure that all of the other aforementioned participants of CPEC will do so, I am not so sure of Pakistan.

In the past we have often ignored national economic interests to safeguard strategic interests beyond the economically viable national capacity and are still paying the price.

If Pakistan’s role is an imperative for CPEC’s success, Pakistan must emerge an economic and military beneficiary.

Pakistan must not forget the experiences of allying itself with the US. Oh, I am not saying we have not benefited from that alliance; we certainly have. But, in any unequal alliance, the weaker partner must ensure that it stays relevant; we didn’t.

What is worse is that we stayed uni-dependent. India under the garb of being “non-aligned”, remained mainly dependent on Russia but received critical assistance from the US as well.

The Trump dilemma

Let us be very clear, in conception, the Marshall Plan was intended to find markets for the American economy, the other beneficiaries were preferred allies but, they were intended to, and did, become markets for American goods. However, each beneficiary guarded its own economic and security interests within the parameters laid down in the plan.

The CPEC is no different. It too will essentially seek markets for Chinese goods. It is up to us to guard our own economic and security interests.

Our foreign policy must also seek to diversify or we will suffer the same consequences again.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Gulbadin
    Jan 26, 2017 - 9:06AM

    It will be interesting time when chinese lead the world. It reminds me of ajooj majooj & we all will regret it. They simply are not capable of leading the world Recommend

  • Virkaul
    Jan 26, 2017 - 9:38AM

    Security analysts should refrain from writing articles on economic issues. The author must Google to find where maximum exports of Pakistan go to. It is not China but
    United States.Recommend

  • Pnpuri
    Jan 26, 2017 - 11:06AM

    Today is India’s republic day an foreign dignitary ( crown Prince of UAE) is chief guest this year. I always wonder if Pakistan prime minister will on some future day join the celebration. But reading this article ” Pakistan needs a security alliance to counter the US-India strategic agreements” I am disheartened but still hopeful. A reading of article it appears brigadier sahib has not learnt from pakistan being part of SEATO and CENTO “the weaker partner must ensure that it stays relevant” a high hope. Article further misses that Europe was a much bigger and economically sound market for USA glut than Pakistan to be market for china surplus. Cpec will be underused by 40% unless india comes on board. India is far bigger market than Pakistan and some African countries which may be served through Gwadar. Recommend

  • VINEETH
    Jan 26, 2017 - 1:09PM

    “In a realigning world, is a Gwadar Pact consisting of China, Russia, and Pakistan, Iran and perhaps Afghanistan and some other countries replace the erstwhile Warsaw Pact?” – You can count Russia out. They will have other ideas when Trump gets closer to Putin. Already Russia’s differences with Iran over Syria’s future have come to the forefront. Iran still is driven by the idea of a Shia crescent to subdue the Sunni Arabs. In other words, modern world are not driven by hard-set alliances as it was during the cold war. National interests drive opportunistic alliances for limited objectives. That is what is happening between India and US now. Recommend

  • sanjeev
    Jan 26, 2017 - 1:16PM

    Why China will export anything through Gwadar ? They will have to use land route half way through which will be 8 to 10 times costlier. And India will use its ports to export to same destinations using sea routes, killing the Chinese competition due to transport costs. China will have to spend huge costs on land routes to be at the point where it is starting point of India at the sea route. Surely China knows this and they have different calculations other than using Gwadar port for exports.Recommend

  • cautious
    Jan 26, 2017 - 1:43PM

    USA gave $120 Billion (today’s $’s) in aid to Europe after WW2. Not sure comparing $50 Billion loan from China is an appropriate comparison. Recommend

  • Jay
    Jan 27, 2017 - 8:34AM

    In what delusional fantasy will Iran abandon India to join Pakistan and China? Does the author know about Chahbahar port, which India is developing in Iran as a direct competitor to Gwadar? Does the author know that Iranians see India as a closer cultural match (Zoroastrianism and Hinduism) than they do Arab-controlled Pakistan? I am a Shia Pakistani but I have no delusions about forming any alliance with Iran. They hate Pakistan and love India.Recommend

  • rama
    Jan 27, 2017 - 2:38PM

    @Pnpuri:

    Even though after WW II every thing was destroyed, but the knowledge to build modern state, that is why within few year Europe bounced back , But Pakistan lack those know how , no point in comparing Marshal plan and CPEC Recommend

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