CPEC (The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor)
Faiza Rehman Khan
Year in year out Pakistan and China are in strong economic and bilateral ties that enhanced the level of cooperation between the two countries. Pakistan has become China’s major trading partner in import as well as exports. The commercial bonds between the two have got to develop since 2006 after the signing of Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-2014, The trade between China and Pakistan increased to US Dollar 9.2 billion fin 2012-13 from USD 4.1 billion in 2006-07. On the other hand China’s export to Pak increased by one percent during the same period. Resultantly, China’s share in export increased to 10 percent during 2013-14 CPEC is envisaged as a key to strengthening of economic and trade cooperation between China and Pakistan. Pakistan has proved much interest after the Li Keqiang’s emphasis on constructing the CPEC on his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. The corridor is going to connect Kashgar in China to Gwadar Port in Balochistan making Gwadar fully functional deep-sea commercial port. The port will serve China to trade between China and Africa and Middle East. The corridor will cut the distance of 12000 kilometers that oil supplies from East now takes to get to Chinese port.
According to China Daily, the CPEC will benefit South Asia to maintain economic integration and regional stability thus making it a ‘comprehensive development program’. Physical infrastructure to be built are 2,700-kilometre highway from Kashgar to Gwadar via Khunjrab, for freight railways links between Gwadar and Khunjrab linking China and regional connectivity with Iran, Afghanistan and India, and the Karachi-Lahore motorway. The project will also undertake the revival and extension of the Karakorum road that connects Xinjiang with Pakistan's Gilgit–Baltistan and KPK. The CPEC, apart from links, the project envisions many economic zones, fast-track Energy implementation of power projects viz a viz CPEC, producing 21,690 with the assistance of China. Baloch nationalists are of the view that such mega projects in Balochistan are not giving a ‘due share’ to Balochis which may arise as a major threat in future to either party of the bilateral project.
Geography of the CPEC
The CPEC is a huge project that will undertake the construction of highway and railway links running through most of Pakistan starting from Gwadar in Balochistan and culminating in Kashgar in western China, while passing through parts of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan to reach the Khunjrab Pass and beyond to China.
Eastern alignment: Pakistan and China have decided to initially construct the eastern alignment of the corridor mainly due to two reasons: first, Chinese companies are reportedly willing to undertake the construction of the eastern alignment on a BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis, and secondly it is more secure compared to the western alignment planned earlier. The eastern alignment will run through only a few areas of Balochistan and KP province where the security situation is more volatile compared to other parts of the country. This change in original planning earned some criticism from parliamentarians in these two provinces who thought the new alignment will deprive their respective provinces of development and employment opportunities that the CPEC brings (The News, 2014).
Senators from KP and Balochistan during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance held in June 2014 said that the new corridor alignment [eastern] excluded many areas of their provinces and the new route largely passed through the Punjab (Ibid). The Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal informed the senators that investors were unwilling to construct the western route on a BOT basis. He said the government had decided to construct the relatively more secure eastern route first with Chinese assistance and that it had not abandoned the original western route, which would be constructed later
Politics and Economy
China is regarded as an “all-weather friend” and the history authenticated it as well, yet there are some variables that may influence Pakistan’s economic and political response capacity and to implement larger CPEC-project over longer time period. The major variables are:
1) Pakistan’s political stability and policy consistency;
2) The present situation of Pakistan’s economy and future scenarios.
Taking the farmer variable, consensus of all parties of the construction and the route of CPEC is the most positive aspect. Pakistan’s military establishment also considers China as the most trusted partner.
Pakistan and China have also some common geo-strategic and bilateral interests. Resultantly, almost all the factors and dimensions suggest that the project may not halt even with the change or shift in government or any political circumstances of a country with unstable political system.
The change of route may emerge as a political or geo-political issue in Pakistan but the government has vowed that they will construct the original western route after a certain time also.
The bigger good-news is that a first democratic shift of power has been made successfully recently and democracy is being strengthened, which is very necessary for such long term and mega projects.
The government allocated Rs73 billions for the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) to undertake projects under CPEC during the ongoing fiscal year to be spent on the Lahore-Karachi motorway and for land acquisition and link roads.
The estimated funds/loans required for Pakistan being USD 32 billion are mainly to come from Chinese banks and institutions, for that federal ministers and central government have made several visits and accomplished the work out.
The corridor is largely expected to be built on BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis. The cost-benefit analysis suggests that the project will give sufficient returns over the investment. The government may also support in the form of provision of the land.
China put this great effort to strengthen its connectivity with the various regions of the world. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed to reviving the old trade routes connecting Central Asia, China and Europe by developing 3 major corridors through central, southern and northern Xinjiang, which connect Russia, Europe and Pakistan to China. The Chinese have focused on the Bangladesh-China-Myanmar-India corridor that provides landlocked Yunnan-province access to the Bay of Bengal.
China’s focus in constructing this seems to strengthen her economic and trade connectivity with in the region and the beyond, to meet its energy needs and enhance export market access, it Pakistan is expected to arise trade hub in South Asia.
Gwadar is the central place in the new trade route of the region/s as without the functional Gwadar Port, it is hard for China to see the corridor as an ‘energy corridor’ that is one of her main objectives underlying the CPEC. Being near the Strait of Hormuz, channeling about ‘one third of the world's oil trade’, Gwadar is a key to ensuring energy security of China as it serves as far shorter route than the current 12,900km route: the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Malacca -China's eastern seashore.
It is envisaged that Gwadar will make Pakistan and China stand on the advantageous strategic positions across Arabian Sea compounding concerns of India stemming from China’s involvements on the ports of the region such as Myanmar and Chittagong, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and in Bangladesh’. One the other part, India being energy hungry looking forward to develop Chabahar Port in Iran. In 2014, Narendra Modi’s cabinet have decided to develop Chabahar Port in Iran, which is believed to have central place for India to open a route to Afghanistan, with whom India has made very intimate security ties and economic interests (Dawn, 2014a), and to have access to energy-rich Central Asian States.
While Gwadar is located in Balochistan in Pakistan, where a nationalist movements and insurgency is going on.
Mainly Pakistan, India and Iran, engaged in proxy wars the projects could be more about internal security for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan which could jeopardize development projects in these countries. Iran holds concerns for Jundullah (sectarian group), Pakistan holds concerns over India’s involvement in Balochistan unrest. China has ostensibly developed a proactive foreign policy: using UN as a platform to negate the war ongoing in the South Asia. China also wishes to resolve the Iran’s nukes issue. On this point, for China, geostrategic position of Pakistan is vital to make the China Pak Economic Corridor.
Moreover, in ties between India and Pakistan, China has got to play its part. For China, at the same time, geo-strategic position of Pakistan is very crucial. It serves as vista into the Middle East., Meanwhile, it already has expanded its infrastructure, trade, and energy linkages with the most of Central Asian Republicans. But instability and instability in Afghanistan are a major concern not only for China but also for other countries including India, Pakistan and Iran. China is the biggest investor in Afghanistan with around $7.5 billion. China has escalated trilateral and bilateral efforts to strengthening regional coordination and cooperation. It hosted the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Beijing on October 31, 2014 with a view to promote security and stability in the Afghanistan, in cooperation with its neighbors (Arif, 2014). China has also pushed the matter of Afghanistan’s future after the drawdown withdrawal to the top of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s agenda.
There are security threats linked to the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor and might originate in Pakistan, the Xinjiang province in China is also under security threats by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Uighur militants. ETIM and Uighur militants have sought shelter in tribal areas of Pakistan. Pakistan’s security forces are fighting with foreign militants in North Waziristan Agency including ETIM and Uighurs in recent months with the commencement of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb which was inevitable to make the mega project a success. militant groups and their fighters along and across their borders.
In Karachi, Threat level is medium however probability of militant attack Is always there in Karachi and low in interior Sindh. With the presence of large numbers of sectarian extremists, militant and criminal traces in Karachi, there is a probability of attacks.
hBetween 2007-2014, 962 terrorist attacks have taken place in areas of Sindh through which the CPEC and Karachi-Lahore Motorway will run. Most of these attacks, 889, occurred in Karachi alone. Among 31 attacks reported form Hyderabad, most were low intensity attacks carried out by Sindhi nationalists and others.
Most of these attacks targeted security forces and law enforcement agencies, civilians, Shia and Sunni religious communities, and political leaders and workers. A few attacks also targeted NATO supply vehicles. A considerable number of low intensity attacks also hit railway tracks and trains, mainly in interior parts of Sindh.
Punjab and Federal
According to the study of Pak Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS) database on conflict and security
The overall threat level is low in those parts of Punjab and Islamabad from where the CPEC will pass. However sporadic incidents of violence including against the project-related targets such as sites, engineers, workers and security personnel cannot be ruled out completely. It is imperative to eliminate TTP’s support structures in Punjab to prevent high value and high intensity attacks in future.
Over the past eight years, starting from 2007, Lahore and Islamabad-Rawalpindi have faced maximum terrorist attacks and casualties compared to other regions of Punjab through which the CPEC-linked roads and railway links will pass.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and AJK10
The threat level in KPK and AJK is also low, hazara division is more safer while Mansehra is a bit under threat.
As mentioned earlier, local Taliban militants in Mansehra, some of them linked with the TTP, can pose a degree of threat to workers and engineers with the CPEC, but the probability and intensity of such a threat is low.
Past of Gilgit is pregnant with sectarian strife. TTP existence and attacks on security forces are also revealed in the area. However, the support structure and militant bases are absence in the area, so the risk level is low here. However, sporadic attacks on the CPEC-linked sites and personnel cannot be ruled out.
State’s capacity and law & Order Situation
Pakistan has the required capacity and security infrastructure to deal with potential threats to the CPEC project. The country has a huge security and law enforcement infrastructure comprising military, paramilitary including Rangers and FC, police and local police forces such as the Khasadar force in FATA and Levies force in Balochistan. Additionally, it has strong professional intelligence agencies. Sufficient sources and equipment for security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies would imply better standard. But with the threat of terrorism being non-conventional and asymmetrical, Pakistan needs more stringent efforts to deal with this threat.
Tribal militants against whom the Pakistani army has launched several military operations in the past, including latest military operation, Zarb-e-Azb – launched on June 15, 2014 in North Waziristan that is ongoing –would suggest a policy of containment of militancy, but much needs to be done in this regard. Initial reports following the launch of the military operation in North Waziristan suggested that foreign militants mainly those from Central Asia and China were prime target of military strikes. Several militants belonging to ETIM and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)–both groups along with the TTP have close links with Chinese Uyghur militants–have been killed in the military operation so far. The government and army have vowed to clear North Waziristan of all militants including local and foreign, so there is hope that these foreign militants from Central Asia and China will no more find sanctuaries and shelter. Some reports suggest many of them have already relocated to either Afghanistan and elsewhere or other parts of FATA and Pakistan. However, it has been established that many of their ‘hideouts’ in Waziristan have been destroyed. This will certainly reduce security threats for the CPEC project emanating from FATA.
As far as Balochistan is concerned, the province is already under strict security scrutiny in the presence of the Frontier Constabulary, police and Levies. In recent months, attacks by nationalist insurgents and militants have decreased. The state’s security apparatus in Balochistan, if utilized effectively, is capable to deter any threats to CPEC-linked projects and activities.
However, there is an immediate need to address security problems in Karachi, which is complex city where militants find many weak spots and spaces to hide, recuperate, recruit, plan and operate. The Rangers and police have carried out security operations in the city, but there is need to expand scope of this operation to eliminate all sorts of militants.
Law enforcement agencies, mainly the police can handle the security of the CPEC alignment in Punjab, Islamabad, KP and also Gilgit-Baltistan with the help of intelligence agencies. Coordination among different security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies will be vital to secure the route, construction and workers of the CPEC project.
Provincial police departments can take pre-emptive steps to ensure the security of Chinese engineers and others working on the CPEC-related projects. Some precedents were set in recent past. For instance, the Lahore City Police established eight special security desks around the city in June 2014for Chinese citizens employed in government, semi-government and private sectors (Express Tribune, 2014).
Sustainable political stability in crucial to implement the mega projects like CPEC. Throughout the course of its history Pakistan has been undergoing the one after the other turmoil that hindered the sustainable development initiatives. Democratization and anti-terroristic planning and implementation, National Action Plan are vital to way forward. South Asia over all and Pakistan more specifically need peace to survive the competitive world and economic markets. Export markets are changing their dynamics. World economy need visionary outlook and leadership. China and Pakistan jointly have planned and implementing the project by implementing the vision 2025.
Although the prevailing environment of insecurity, militancy and violence in Pakistan can pose serious threats to the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the level and nature of this threat is not uniform across Pakistan. It is encouraging that the areas through which the finalized eastern alignment of the corridor will run are relatively more secure than those of the earlier planned western alignment, though with few exceptions. The level of threat to the security of the CPEC project, including sites and personnel, is low along most areas of eastern alignment with the exceptions of Gwadar, the Makran Coastal Belt and Karachi, where threat level is assessed to be medium. At the same time, it is imperative to ensure stringent security measures along the entire CPEC alignment