Abstract – CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy – The “Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative” is a preposterous idea initiated by the Chinese government with the goal to foster worldwide shared prosperity. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a blessing for Pakistan that will play an important role in mutual cooperation and regional connectivity among neighboring countries. It is an “All-Weather Strategic Friendship” that is confirmed for Pakistan and China. Its first six corridors will link the Kashgar belt with the Maritime Silk Road at Gwadar Port in Pakistan. CPEC’s multi billion-dollar project provides much-needed pathways for economic development and political peace in Pakistan and the broader region.
A country Foreign Policy starts with national interest, economy, and security. Pakistan’s Foreign Policy strategy is shifting from defense to economic due to B&R Initiative. Currently, Pakistan is dependent on China and Saudi Arabia assistance aid to boosts it’s economic strength and puts forward its eye vision to the CPEC project. In this regard, Pakistan is working with the Chinese government to stable its economic growth.
However, this project has certain implications on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. A very little academic discussion exists on this topic. This article contributes the implications on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, which will be an alert tune for Pakistan and China to encounter the coming challenges.
Belt and Road Initiative; National Interest; Indian and Turkey Perspectives; Implications on Pakistan Foreign Policy; Shifts from West to China; Imran Khan statement; FDI; Debt Trap; Social Stance; Rapid Progress.
CPEC provides Pakistan with sources of incredible economic development and stability, which is also the determinant of Foreign Policy. The future of the country relies on economic condition. In Foreign Policy, economics is the only determinant that makes the future bright. That’s why Pakistan changes its policy to take soulful fruit from the Belt and Road Initiative through CPEC. In this project, both countries are showing their interest and are focused to boost up the economy in different sectors.
In the current scenario of globalization, the sources of thread have also expanded and need a multidimensional approach to tackle/address the new challenges. China’s views that a military approach to addressing security issues in South Asia will further deteriorate the region conditions and will damage the countries interests. The best approach to tackle and resolve these challenges are to create opportunities for boosting economies and social & cultural ties among countries instead of using any military actions. China has chosen the economic way, and has launched the Belt and Road Initiative. (Fatima, 2017).
China and Pakistan’s friendship has been growing for several decades. Both countries are showing a sense of political responsibility. They weathered all the crests and troughs of their challenging journey together and disregarded all the regional and extra-regional pressures. They support each other at all international forums, the leaders of the countries, and the support of their citizens, which assured the relationship and will grow into a solid bond. Pakistan and China signed the bilateral agreement of trade for the sake of economic prosperity. This project will give positive results but also gave negative results with respect to neighbors and the USA. (KUGELMAN).
The Mega project aims to improve economic strength not only for Pakistan but also for the whole region. The project is divided into four categories with a total worth of $62 billion, a 136-kilometer long section between Karachi and Hyderabad also known as the M9 Motorway, 345 kilometers long section between Hyderabad and Sukkur, 392-kilometer long section between Sukkur and Multan and 333 kilometers section between Multan and Lahore via the town of Abdul Hakeem.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor as an opportunity of economic cooperation and evaluates implications at different levels such as regional, national, and international levels. From this perspective, Pakistan seeing as an economic prism instead of a conventional and defense approach. This project will enhance Pakistan’s local business; help to cope with energy crisis through different economic zones.
The pathway which connects the Gulf region, south regions, and bridge with west countries allowing to act as a gateway for micro and macro-economic cooperation in addition to stabilizing the area which has been stripped of volatility in the recent past. It is well known that this bilateral agreement is between Pakistan and China but it also increases the Geo-strategic and Geo-politics values of Pakistan. Due to these positive and fruitful results, the extra-regional nations have also shown their economic interest in the corridor. (Faisal Mehmood Mirza, August, 2019).
Along with these states, the neighboring countries including like Afghanistan and Iran are also interested in the CPEC. Recently Pakistan has attained the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting. The organization comprises seven countries along with Pakistan. It should be noted that under the SCO framework CPEC was one of the headline issues. The observer nation Afghanistan expressed interest in the project at SCO’s Qingdao meeting in June 2018 and it was supported by both Pakistan and China. The Chinese Foreign Minister, “Mr. Wang, stated at the trilateral meeting of Foreign Ministers that ‘China and Pakistan are willing to work with Afghanistan on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan”. It is evident that if Afghanistan is stable and its governments are in a good position, it will put a positive stance on Pakistan. (Boni, 2017).
In the meantime, China Belt and Road Initiative would strengthen economic relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The cooperation will also give the strength to fight against terrorism, insurgency and would boost the counter-terror and counter-insurgency efforts of Pakistan. In addition to the involvement of Iran in Belt and Road Initiative, it could bring a mega change by making Gawadar and Cahbahar as Iran sister ports. Iran is more enthusiastic and willing to be part of this mega project because Iran looks forward to robust relations with emerging powers and CPEC will provide basis for Iran to improve its relations with China, Russia and so on. (Boni, 2017).
Importance of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative:
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will play an important role in regional and extra-regional connectivity. Regional compatibility not only connects the region but it also induces dynamic inter dependencies between States. The Belt and Road Initiative provides a suitable way to the nations where they can easily assist and cooperate with each other. It is to be noted that the regional cooperation of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan will also counter the China Neo-imperialist threat in the region. Pakistan’s trade union with China marked a new chapter in its Foreign Policy chronicles. (Mardell, May 20,2020).
In addition, this mega project also gave the opportunity to Pakistan to not only make good relations with neighboring and regional states but also give a good chance to establish relations with European States as the European States have also shown their interests in this project. Pakistan may take this opportunity to develop closer bilateral and multilateral relations with European countries and, respectively, the European Union. If we look to the past, present and future scenario, Pakistan Foreign Policy in the region was totally Bharat-Centric, and beyond the borders, it was USA-Centric. For these reasons, Pakistan was maximizing and enlarges its security forces to counter Indian threats in the region. On the other side, the US behavior towards Pakistan has shifted from a strategic partner to that of a defaulter. India has continued its struggles to isolate Pakistan in the region. In these circumstances, the project has emerged as an opportunity for China and Pakistan to build up its economic relations in the region and beyond. (app.com.pk, July 17, 2020).
Only China, Pakistan, and India’s economic integration can make it the largest economic zone in the world, leaving the US a long way behind. Being the main sponsor of the greater Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC will have a universal impact. To attain regional stability and peace, it is necessary to cooperate with regional states including China, Afghanistan, and Iran. In addition, the integration of India will contribute to the complex interdependence of regional states. In fact, India’s participation in integration will contribute to the dynamic interdependence of regional states.
Economic Factors and Foreign Policy:
Economic Factors always influence a country’s Foreign Policy. Country tries to develop foreign relationship with a view to achieve economic stability. The developing countries are searching ways to develop good relationship with developed countries to obtain some support, while the advanced countries are searching for their opportunity to boost their profits and win foreign markets. Economic factors directly influence any country’s Foreign Policy because the poor states are dependent on rich states and rich states are depending upon poor states to utilize natural resources.
Pakistani Media Stance:
According to the Foreign Policy news, November 20, 2020, Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi clearly manifests that Pakistan’s top priority is China-Pakistan’s broader Belt and Road Initiative. After this statement, a week later, the China ambassador to Pakistan also announced that the first phase of the project will complete at a worth of $62 billion and the second phase would begin soon. In the first phase, the energy sectors and roads are the main tasks while the second phase will emphasize on agriculture, industrialization, socioeconomic developments, and a particular focus on special economic zones. As quoted by the Chinese media sources, one economic zone is taking place this month at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and directly employs 150,000 people in industries that include light engineering and food processing. (Shen, 2017, 2018, 2020).
India is trying to deteriorate the efforts of Pakistan. To some degree, the Bharat resistance is worrying but having all other big regional players on board with this project will eventually mitigate Indian struggles to hamper the efforts. India is the only state in the region that is trying to interrupt and showing resentment regarding the mega project. Indian Prime Minister Modi announced in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Qingdao, Indian never accept the CPEC and does not support it. In the meantime, India also objected project routes which is adjusted, touched, and inside adjacent to Azad Jammu and Kashmir as India considers Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. It is expected that SCO will play the role of bridge for India and Pakistan. On the other side, SAARC is also trying to minimize the tension between them. Russia and China are the regional powers and they could likely help both countries to negotiate their dispute through peaceful means.
Pakistan has warmly welcomed Turkish involvement in Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) invited Turkish officials and entrepreneurs to discuss how the two countries could collaborate under the CPEC banner. A number of Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) signed between Turkey and Pakistan.
Backdrop of Debt Trap:
Debt exposure is at its peak within the framework of CPEC considerations. A Chinese official recently reported that, CPEC debt currently 10th of overall debt in Pakistan. Islamabad has already dip in a debt ridden and taking so many Chinese loans for the development projects. Pakistan should reform its policies to repay loans timely. According to the Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan, “almost reached alarming level of debt, and stood at a whopping 86.5 percent of GDP in mid-2019 – and rise of 13.5 percentage point from the previous year. This problem can be attributed in part to Pakistan’s floundering public companies’ domestic debt—including the national airline and railway—which rose between 2013 and 2018 by nearly 250 per cent” (Rehman, 2017). These companies continued to borrow heavily in 2019, and pursuing their privatization, Islamabad has made little headway. Against this backdrop of debt, declining inflation and deflation, pressing ahead with CPEC investment risks causing new pressures for an already-fought economy.
Rapid Progress in Belt and Road Initiative:
The project is spreading very vastly and has changed the dimension of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy with its regional states along with neighboring states. Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is not a bilateral agreement or project between Pakistan and China but also a multidimensional project, which will connect different states as well. The rapid progress in the speed of the CPEC project puts implications on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. In regard to CPEC, Pakistan has also improved the security situation and has created an attractive forum for foreign direct investment (FDI). Tajikistan, Iran, United Kingdom, and several other countries have expressed their interest to join CPEC. Pakistan has meanwhile welcomed Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia to join CPEC. (Hillman, 2018).
Implications on Pakistan Foreign Policy:
In the wake of CPEC, what hurdles are coming and what Pakistan can do or change their Strategy. There are some important impacts (positive and negative) on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.
China and USA are driving hard to lead world in economy. They are neither friends nor enemy. China started this project in 2013 to strengthen growth of trade in Asia Pacific, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe. This project covers more than 68 countries with 65% world population which will help international and domestic industries. “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” in opposition was laid by USA having three pillars – security, governance and economics. German thinks for common future of European and Russian federation through one belt. The Geo-strategic location of Iran located at Caspian Sea and its border with Persian Gulf with its massive oil and gas resources favors this project. China is the largest importer of Iran oil and has trade of $35 billion with Iran. Timely economic diplomacy regarding opportunities will decide the future of countries in this project. It will change the Pakistan Foreign Policy regarding in economic sector as well as a good opportunity to boost up economy. (Hussain E. 2019).
First Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is an excellent chance for Pakistan to boost its economy. It connects Pakistan to China which is the largest economic place in the world. Special Economic Zones will invite foreign investment across the globe. CPEC route will connect China and Pakistan located at the strategic position of the world. In a recent interview, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that, the future of Pakistan is now with China. So Pakistan’s Foreign Policy is totally based on the relationship with China. In past, Pakistan had played the role of bridge among the US, China and European Union. Pakistan had also played a role of bridge between the Gulf States and Iran. After the Belt and Road Initiative, it seems that Pakistan is going towards the block of major allies like China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Malaysia. Pakistan will try to convince the Gulf States and all Muslim Ummah to join this block. Pakistan will also try to continue its role of a bridge among all these countries.
Second Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
The third implication on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy is directly connected with Afghanistan’s stability because one Railway route will touch the Afghanistan region. Afghanistan depends primarily on Pakistan for its trade. Ties between the two countries are going to a hard process. However, Chinese investment in Afghanistan and invitation to join CPEC were welcome developments.
Third Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
The third implication is the US and Iran relations and tension between them. This unrest will directly affect the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Iran touches the Pakistan border and if there is an unrest situation inside Iran then the sinister air will definitely reaches Pakistan. In Pakistan, the 2nd phase of CPEC will start soon and there is a direct threat from Iran. There are two blocks, one in Asia and the other is Western. US wants to keep the Gulf States in its block for its own interests. The vital player of the US in this region is India and US using India for its own purposes. Alternatively, there should be tension in the other block as well as in the Middle East which is the actual threat of Iran to the Gulf state. In addition, the Western block wants Israel to have a role in the Middle East region. There should be unrest in the Gulf States and due to this; the regime will ask help to the US for their protection. It will affect Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and will be a direct threat to the project. (Hussain M, 2017).
Fourth Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
It is a concern with Rapid progress in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Second phase is starting soon which is Worth USD 11 billion. The main focuses of 2nd phase are hydro power and railway. Iran’s Geo-strategic location is very important for both Iran and China. Investment in Iran laid by China is $35 billion. In 2016, India invested $6 million for Chabahar Port, which is ten times less than China’s investment. In August 2020, India announced $200 million for Chabahr Port. Afghanistan infrastructure and high ways must be developed for Chabahar Port, which will give access to Indian markets to central Asia states. China played an important role to enter CPEC in Afghanistan. It would also fruitful and great news for Pakistan because at some point they cross each other’s. (Ali, 2015) Pakistan reopened trade and people to people exchange which was applause by China. Recently, Pakistan opened five key routes with Afghanistan for bilateral and transient trade. From this positive step, CPEC under China proposed Belt and Road Initiative will get connectivity to Central Asia through Afghanistan. Encouraged by this favorable policy cargo ship of 16000 tons of urea transit to Afghanistan arrived at Gawadar Port. It is now clear from the above statement that the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative put positive impacts on Pakistan Foreign Policy. (Ramay, 2020).
Fifth Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
It is related to the Social, Cultural, Political and Economic stance. Chinese One Belt and Road initiative is a game-changer that will reduce poverty and misery in the whole regions as well as in the Central Asia. This economic revolution connects all regions of Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Europe and it will bring harmony, prosperity, and peace.
Sixth Implication: CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy
Islamabad has welcomed Saudi Arabia to become an indirect partner / direct participant in the CPEC ventures within Pakistan funded by Beijing. The CPEC, commonly deemed as a game-changer for Pakistan’s future. The entrance of Saudi Arabia to this milestone initiative are welcome news, especially as it sets a precedent for investors from other countries. Geo-strategically, this development serves to profoundly influence the future dynamics of the CPEC regionally while making a boost to Belt and Road Initiative trans-regional connectivity.
The China Belt and Road Initiative is an economic development project around Central Asia, Africa, the European Pacific, and the Russian Federation. Today the politics of Great powers are extremely volatile in the South Asia region. China is trying to balance the increasing military involvement in the region by its Belt and Road Initiative, of which China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the largest and most important portion. Due to the above explanation Pakistan changes its Foreign Policy and shifting it from West to China. Although it poses certain implications on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy but Pakistan is playing its role and handling harsh situation in a soft manner. Besides, some countries do not want to boost Pakistan’s economy but the time has come that Pakistan must and should stand on her feet to boost its Economic, Political, and Social sectors.
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CPEC and Pakistan Foreign Policy written By: Mr. Abdullah
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