CPEC conference held in Shanghai

A conference on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was organized on August 25 by Pakistan Study Center, Fudan University in Shanghai. The Conference discussed various aspects of CPEC, its progress and the way forward.

The conference was attended by seasoned diplomats, policy makers, academics and experts from both Pakistan and China. The participants included Ambassador Masood Khalid, Ambassador Sha Zukang, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Professor Song Zhihui, Professor Sun Hongqi, Professor Tang Mengsheng, Dr. Rifaat Hussain and Consul General Naeem Khan.

In the inaugural address of the Conference, Ambassador Masood Khalid highlighted the all weather strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. He stated that friendship with China enjoys across the board support in Pakistan, cross cutting political affiliations or ethnic diversity. He said that the two countries have been close partners for the past six decades and this friendship will gain greater heights in future. He said that Pakistan’s commitment to implement CPEC remains firm and will not be affected by recent political developments. The process of CPEC implementation will be accelerated, Ambassador added.

Ambassador Masood Khalid said that Pakistan’s Foreign Policy is focused on promoting peaceful neighbourhood based on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference and equality. As regards terrorism, no country has done more than Pakistan to counter this menace. He stressed that U.S. President Trump’s recent statement ignores the enormous sacrifices given by Pakistani nation. Pakistan has been and will continue to be part of the global counter terrorism efforts and will not allow the use of its territory against any country. He emphasized that the international community needs to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism.

Ambassador Masood Khalid elucidated that the threat to peace and security cannot be isolated from the complex interplay of regional geopolitics, continued existence of festering disputes like Jammu and Kashmir dispute and hegemonic policies pursued in our region.

The Conference participants in their interventions highlighted the importance of CPEC for development of Pakistan, China bilateral economic cooperation, trans-regional linkages and its impact on regional economies. They underscored that President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative of which CPEC is a flagship project, will accrue huge dividends for the economic development and prosperity of the people of the region. They viewed its criticism as motivated and self-serving and expressed confidence that the Initiative will have transformative effect on the lives of the people of Pakistan and accelerate the process of socio-economic development of the country.

The tale of CPEC and Balochistan

The success and implementation of CPEC depends largely on restoration of peace in Balochistan to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure. The federal government and the military establishment have been working relentlessly on a two-pronged strategy to restore writ of the state in the province and ending the decade old insurgency. The first is the use of the military muscle, as part of the National Action Plan, to quell the foreign supported and funded insurgency. A number of operations have been carried out against insurgents and terrorists leading to considerable decline in sabotage and terrorism in the province. The second is the initiation of a special plan known as ‘Pur Aman Balochistan’ which has already started producing results as fararis and armed men are surrendering before the authorities and are being helped to start new lives. The result is that the province is now more stable and peaceful as compared to four years ago.

To protect the Chinese and Pakistanis working on the CPEC projects and the infrastructure being created through CPEC, a special force comprising 15,000 personnel has been raised. The development of infrastructure, especially the corridor roads, have been entrusted to FWO which according to the reports has already completed the construction of 870 km of the portion of the western corridor in the province.

The Army has also put in place commendable initiatives in the education sector. It has also created employment opportunities for Baloch youth by recruiting thousands of them in the Army. These measures have immensely contributed to eliminating the sense of deprivation in the province and thereby denying the insurgents of a legitimate cause to mislead the Baloch youth. These efforts surely need to be strengthened and supplemented through other steps devoid of political expediencies and firmly rooted in the recognition of ground realities. The military action against the insurgents designed to establish the writ of the state in the province must continue with unruffled commitment.

Gawadar, lying at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf near the strait of Hurmuz, is in fact the pivot of the CPEC initiative. Pakistan – with the help of China – has developed it into deep-sea port at a cost of $248 million. It has great strategic importance. In 2013, the port operations were officially handed over to China. Under the agreement China is trying to develop the port into a full scale commercial port. Gawadar port, was officially opened on 20 March 2007. It was preceded by a master plan for the development of Gawadar city with land zoning and internal infrastructure networks. It included fast-track construction of roads, other infrastructure, public buildings and industrial parks at the east end of the city. These developments have led to a rapid increase in the population of Gawadar which was a fishing town before development of the port with a population of 85,000.

After the launch of the CPEC initiative during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to Pakistan in April 2015, Gawadar has assumed pivotal importance in the implementation of that meg-economic undertaking. Under CPEC a new international airport is being developed at Gawadar and this port city will also be linked to Kashghar in China through a network of roads, rail links and other infrastructure required to achieve the objective of the CPEC. Gawadar being the culminating point of the CPEC is poised to become one of the most vibrant economic entities in the South Asia region serving the economic interests of Pakistan, China and the Central Asian countries.

On the basis of what has so far transpired and revealed regarding development of Gawadar Port, construction of an international airport and the infrastructure to be built in the form of roads and industrial zones along the western and other routes, Balochistan will be the biggest beneficiary of the CPEC that will generate economic activity of colossal proportions in the province. Gawadar itself and its local population will witness a positive transformation in their lives as the Chinese are also working on a number of projects in the education and health sectors as well as the development of water resources, besides a housing scheme to cater to the housing needs of the growing population of the city.

The economists believe that with the completion of CPEC there will be a net increase of 3 per cent in the GD growth of the country and millions of new jobs will be created to quell the problem of unemployment. With the Gawadar port becoming operational, Pakistan would become the hub of economic activity in the entire region accruing infinite economic benefits to the country on perennial basis. That explains the importance of CPEC for the people of Pakistan, particularly the backward areas like Balochistan and the region. The regional linkages thus created would surely provide a win-win situation of all.

Unfortunately, some regional and international powers are not comfortable with the CPEC initiative and take it as a threat to their strategic interests in this region and are making overt and covert efforts to sabotage it. India in particular is hell bent on fomenting instability in Balochistan by helping the insurgents and sponsoring terrorist activities. The arrest of Kalbhushan Yadav and his confessions provide a ranting testimony to this regrettable phenomenon. Pakistan and China will also have to collaborate to thwart the designs of the anti-CPEC forces both within and outside Pakistan.

Pakistan, in view of the sensitivity and importance of CPEC, will have to upgrade its efforts to sensitise the international community about Indian interference in Balochistan and unmasking its real face. It is encouraging to note that the government has already launched a diplomatic offensive and decided to raise the issue at the international forums and the UN. That needs to be pursued vigorously and continuously to put pressure on India to dissuade her from supporting the insurgency. It is pertinent to mention that India is also trying to sabotage CPEC through vigorous efforts to malign Pakistan at the international level by projecting its image as a state sponsoring terrorist activities in the neighbouring countries, especially India. That impression also needs to be erased through effective counter measures at the international level.

All investors are welcome to CPEC, says BOI

ISLAMABAD: The Board of Investment (BoI) has emphasised that the government has a very liberal investment policy in place and denied any agreement between Pakistan and China for keeping other interested countries away from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In a statement, the BoI pointed out that the government had initiated a broad and multi-dimensional reform process in a bid to improve the investment climate in Pakistan. “Business opportunities will be equally available to all Pakistani businessmen, Chinese businessmen, enterprises and foreign investors from other countries, either separately or in joint ventures depending on the nature of investment,” it said.

In this regard, the federal cabinet has given the go-ahead to a comprehensive incentive package, which offers broad-based incentives to all investors.

Industrial cooperation under CPEC was aimed at developing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in each province and region of Pakistan, the BoI said. In this regard, sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC has approved nine SEZs which will be established in Pakistan’s four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Fata and Islamabad Capital Territory. Appropriate sites for these zones have also been identified by the provincial governments and authorities concerned.

The BoI recalled that an expert-level delegation of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China visited Pakistan in the first half of July. It toured SEZ sites and held meetings with government officials and the business community to provide guidelines for the development of economic zones.

During the consultative sessions and meetings, the BoI claimed, the NDRC team praised efforts of Pakistan government for providing attractive incentives and no demand for a 99-year lease of land and providing blanket tax exemptions were made.

“The expert team did not demand any exclusive control over any of the nine SEZs. China has never shown any desire for complete control over SEZs/industrial parks under CPEC,” the BoI said.