Pakistan, China and the economic corridor

Published: March 18, 2015
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

The friendship between Pakistan and China is the story of two countries with contrasting approaches to life. The former is socio-politically fractious and suffers from religio-political violence. It ruled by a self-serving ruling elite with huge issues of integrity and little empathy towards people at large.  The elite substitute fundamental principles of the rule of law with brazen political expedience and abuse of political power that they draw from poor voters.

The Chinese leadership, in contrast, does not directly represent the people i.e., it does not gain power through elections. However, all across China we see a singular focus on the citizens’ welfare and internal stability — objectives achieved through long-term policies that are enforced and protected. This is what sustains China and has placed it on top of the world map: relentless pursuit of objectives with commitment and clarity.

The same applies to the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) that Beijing wants to pursue despite all topographical odds and political roadblocks such as turmoil in Balochistan and the crisis of insecurity in other parts of the country. The logic is simple: the proposed route, conceived over a decade ago, will serve both western China and help Pakistan too. The expansion of the Karakoram Highway and the involvement in the construction of Gwadar were also part of this economic vision, which have got a new push under President Xi Jinping.

Beijing’s focus and commitment to the PCEC is also manifest in the recent visit to Islamabad of a high profile Chinese expert group on long-term planning of the PCEC. Led by Hu Dongsheng, deputy director general of the China Development Bank, the 19-member group held extensive discussions on the project. Both sides emphasised the need to speed up the process of drafting the PCEC long-term plan, which includes not only roads but a lot of social infrastructure in Balochistan and other areas aligned with the corridor. If realised, the PCEC will not only benefit Pakistan in terms of improvement of its economy and security condition, but also contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity.

The Gwadar-Kashghar route was originally planned to run through Bisima, Khuzdar, Kalat and Quetta onto Zhob, D I Khan, Hassan Abdal and onwards to Kashghar but it has been changed to Bisima, Ratodero and towards Punjab, which means bypassing the Baloch and Pakhtun areas. That is why there were recent protests in the Senate by members from Khyber- Pashtunkhwa (K-P), Fata and Balochistan. According to the new plan, the corridor route turns from Havelian towards the east and links up with the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway, to include Punjab. From here, the corridor is linked to the Lahore-Karachi Motorway and then to Gwadar. Officials at the Planning Commission argue that the completion of infrastructure in K-P and Balochistan will take a few years and thus it was imperative to utilise the existing infrastructure. This was done, insist officials, to accommodate Chinese concerns rooted in the security condition in K-P and Balochistan.

Apparently, the federal government altered the PCEC route and made it longer by 300 kilometres, without taking the Pakhtun and Baloch stakeholders into confidence. This is yet another example of the surreptitious and the high-handed approach towards the smaller provinces. The reaction from within the two provinces was natural and requires attention by the federal government.

As this bickering simmers in Pakistan, the Chinese leadership is worrying about future developments. President Xi is expected to visit Islamabad soon and will hopefully provide a fresh impetus to the PCEC-related projects, which Beijing firmly remains committed to. Chinese officials say the corridor project is not just meant for one region, but for the economic development of the whole of Pakistan. Chinese diplomats in Islamabad are both enthusiastic as well as concerned about the controversy surrounding the corridor. There will be quite a spectacle if protestors from Balochistan and K-P greeted President Xi, said an official. Why can’t Pakistani leaders sit together and flesh out the issues in an amicable and transparent way, wondered another visitor from Beijing. While there may have been complex internal security challenges as well as Chinese concerns that might have prompted changes in the corridor route but why was this done in such a controversial manner? Pakistan needs unity, transparent political conduct and a people-focused commitment like never before. 

Published in The Express Tribune, March  18th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Rabia
    Mar 18, 2015 - 10:53AM

    China has always been a helping hand for us either its economic field or our energy problems. It’s all hail to China in Pakistan and as other partnerships wither and die, these two countries continue to devote energy to strengthening their relationship. China has historically come to Pakistan’s rescue with economic, political, military and nuclear assistance. Recommend

  • amir
    Mar 18, 2015 - 11:24AM

    Uneven distribution of family wealth even among brothers can cause of family dispute. History has taught us that man west of Darya Sind, even at cost of his LIFE,whenever found that it is more economical, , to cross Attock fort rather sweat in fields, he has crossed. Disparity incites even your next door neighbor/ relatives to get even. History repeats if not understood.Recommend

  • Zeenia
    Mar 18, 2015 - 12:19PM

    The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be of important economic, diplomatic, security and strategic significance. It will open new areas for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries and offer a new force for their economic integration. It will also further expand the depth and breadth of bilateral strategic cooperation and push their strategic cooperative partnership to a new level.If Pakistan uses this opportunity wisely and is able to reap the economic benefits this corridor has to offer, it can greatly enhance its regional power and prestige and prove a more valuable long-term ally for Beijing. The Pak-China corridor will in fact be a game changer in the region.” More over China has always been remained trustful partner of Pakistan. Both States mutually can work together for opening up new ways of opportunities. Recommend

  • zahira
    Mar 18, 2015 - 12:43PM

    It is very true that there have been many hurdles in the way of Pakistan China Economic Corridor (PCEC) but the present government is very much persistent to continue with this project. The Pakistan China continues with strong friendship but there are many factors which intentionally try to break up the bilateral relationship. However, both sides share the same working notions for developmental projects in Pakistan. China is such a true friend of Pakistan who practically makes efforts to address issues in Pakistan. This is denoted as all-weather friendship. Recommend

  • Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik
    Mar 19, 2015 - 8:50AM

    Chinese Govt is not worrying about the CPEC. It is worrying about the kind of information and analyses frequently published and giving a distorted image such as this one. When the original route was agreed upon? Who approved – cabinet, senate, lower house or who? There is no such thing. How smaller provinces (Balochistan and KP) were excluded? How the route was made longer? just 300 km longer? One should only write on CPEC, having all facts on the top of his fingers.Please browse many of my articles written on the subject. Recommend

  • Zia Khan
    Apr 10, 2015 - 11:29AM

    This injustice, selfishness and dishonesty of the Urban Pakistan will never be tolerated. The people of Pukhtoonkhwa, Baluchistan and FATA feel like being occupied against their wishes. The army only defends and protects Punjab and Punjab interest, the rest should take care of themselves. It would be better for the small provinces to become independent if this route is changed from the original one. All the Pukhtoons and Baluch strongly reject the lame excuses and dishonest tricks of the Punjabi Pakistan. Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2015 - 8:52AM

    Long live Pak China friendship. We wel-come Pak China economic coridor project. Nawaz govt changed the route coz there vision is just punjab. KP +Baluchistan especially pakhtun belt kicked off. its not fair. Recommend

  • Nabeel Ahmad
    Apr 21, 2015 - 5:02AM

    “economic prosperity” haha …. by taking money from others??? while having gigantic resources ourselves …. and letting them gone wasted or exploiting them by letting our corrupts control those resources of ours … “economic prosperity” is not needed here I am afraid my dear … It’s “filtration” we require …. and though it would seem pretty hard going through the filtration process .. and would be needing some huge “sacrifices” I must say … but as someone once said .. there are two ways in life .. one is easy and the other one is right … let’s see which one we choose :)Recommend

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