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China-Punjab Economic Corridor: Countering the Myths

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The multi-faceted project of CPEC has been rightly described as a fate-changer or landmark project in the history of the country. Pumping of $62 billion by China would usher an era of economic development, realizing the dream of the “Asian Tiger”. Much of the country’s future depends on the success of this project.

The Chinese investment and loan for CPEC is almost five times more than the aid Pakistan got from US since 9/11. Because of its unique geographic location, Pakistan has always had the strategic advantage to capitalize on. As Robert D Kaplan, a well-known international scholar on geopolitics, after his visit to Gwadar wrote in The Atlantic in 2009, “If we can think of a great place – names of the past – Carthage, Thebes, Troy, Samarkand, Angkor Wat, and of the present Dubai, Singapore, Tehran, Beijing, Washington – then Gwadar would qualify as a great place – name of the future”.

One of the major concerns of the smaller provinces is that the Federal Government is neglecting the western route. This claim of not giving priority to the western route is being repeatedly made without any substantial evidence. In fact the work on both, eastern and western, routes is in progress at same time. The FWO is working to complete the incomplete link of 400 km link between Gwadar and Surab passing through Quetta, Zhob, DI Khan and Peshawar.

Here arises a question: who will benefit the most from the CPEC once executed as planned by its planners? It will benefit the whole country given the presence of various projects under CPEC spread all across the country. Every province and region will benefit from the project as all the provincial capitals – including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta – would be the major intersections of the project.

In order to make Gwadar operational in the shortest possible time, the eastern route linking Karakoram Highway to existing motorways is the best option. Having high traffic volume, booming industries and security on eastern route, it is much more reasonable to start the project with. With work in progress on the central, western and eastern alignments simultaneously – linking Gwadar, Pakistan to Kashgar, China within 15 years under the CPEC – there is no reason to make the whole project controversial by mere speculations.

It is high time that ethno-nationalism needs to be set aside and we should work for the project that aims to benefit the whole country. This approach will benefit all, while any counter approach would result in destruction of all. Politicians must decide now, for betterment of the nation, because time and tide wait for none.

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