Spearhead Analysis – 09.12.2015
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a hugely important project for Pakistan. It has the potential to bring enormous economic dividends to the country besides creating jobs, developing a vast infrastructure of rail, road and port networks and giving Pakistan interconnectivity to the globalized world for trade and energy flows. Pakistan is important but it is by no means the indispensable star in the overall scheme of things. Should Pakistan falter the broader Chinese strategic vision will sidestep Pakistan and go for the alternatives that exist. It is important that Pakistan does not falter.
The “One Belt One Road” strategy plus the ports and sea lanes that will link South East Asia to the Mediterranean is China’s strategic response to the US vision of a pivot to the east, a new Silk Road and the game changing Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that China was not invited to join. China’s broad strategic initiative includes the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) that has already raised $ 100 billion almost twice of what was initially envisaged. Fifty seven countries that includes Iran, Israel, Britain, Germany. Australia, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Poland, have already signed on even though the US has not. In fact without actually opposing the Chinese venture the US has indicated its concerns over the Chinese sponsored and controlled bank. China already has an Export and Import Bank and a Development Bank and recently the international Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved China’s Renminbi (RMB) as part of the internationally approved currencies bringing it at par with the Dollar, the Euro and the Japanese Yen. Small wonder then that the US thinks that the Bretton Woods institutions may have a challenge even though China has offered assurances even saying that it will continue to support those institutions. In the 2008 economic crisis China’s actions were positive and stabilizing. China is also likely to make sure that it conforms to International controls and norms through a credible and efficiently functioning governance structure. It will learn from the experience of the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank and other institutions.
The multi- billion dollar infrastructure of roads, rails, ports pipelines and energy grids will undoubtedly bring wealth to Asia making the slow economic shift to the east a reality. Asian economies and political structures are gearing up to take full advantage of the evolving environment. No one wants to be excluded or let behind. Countries are eyeing future nuclear trade and RMB currency trades. China’s vision envisages interconnectedness all the way from the Central Asian States to the Mediterranean. When linked to Russia’s Eurasian vision the magnitude and scale is breathtaking in its expanse. For Pakistan the CPEC will tie in with and augment projects like CASA and the TAPI (Turkmenistan and LNG projects that include a vast pipe line to be built by Russia. Pakistan’s military is already waging a successful counter insurgency operation and an urban pacification operation to improve internal security but the gains made are yet to be backed by sustainable consolidation actions. Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus has demonstrated its awesome capacity to deliver intelligence and counter external covert operations that seek to undermine the country before the CPEC takes off. There is now a need for counter radicalization campaigns and control over those who from within wittingly or unwittingly give encouragement to negative trends.
Specifically this is no time for divides within society, debates over civil-military relations and political bickering and compromises that become obstacles to the CPEC. This is the time for institutionalized decision making and policy formulation and review structures as well as independent expert manned bodies to manage trade, energy plans and public sector enterprises. Credibility of those in charge must be apparent and evident if Pakistan is to change its international image and bring about effective governance. There is a need to orchestrate all resources including the media to achieve these objectives and this is only possible after a thorough review of the present situation that indicates future directions and the immediate tactical decisions that need to be taken.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual).