By Anuj K Tiwari
Imran Khan seems to be confused in order to deal with China, along its role in CPEC, whether or not it benefits Pakistan at large, while rolling out culminating UAE, Iran and other Islamic countries. In other words – It has yet to realise CPEC’s geo-economic value and strategise how this should figure in its grand policy narrative. Secondly, the policy community’s overemphasis on CPEC’s regional political and strategic dimensions is causing confusion which clearly seen as India’s role in its part. Though, China – Pakistan both invited Indian government to be part of this geo-economic partnership and play its role there; it will not only benefits to preserve self –goal at long run, but entire region be also stable with greater prosperities.
The evident of what it being said is; recent CPEC-related statements issued by government representatives, including on the project’s revision (the apparent Saudi inclusion) — without taking China on board — and CPEC’s ‘expansion’ to the farm sector, although agriculture figures in CPEC’s long-term plan had previously received a negative response from some stakeholders. However, a calculated response from China not only provided a means of face-saving to the government but also prevented the project from being mired in further controversy.
While Imran Khan government’s confused response and the strategic community’s overemphasis on CPEC’s strategic dimension are exerting pressure on the project’s long-term prospects. CPEC’s second and most important phase will start soon. It is expected that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China next month might pave the way for this. The Chinese were firstly focused on infrastructure building and addressing energy deficiency in Pakistan; these issues are hindering economic development here. However, it has just confused Pakistani at all, and the present ruler of Pakistan is unable to get out from it. At the same time, US creating pressure through IMF to not to provide loan at the cost what Pakistan wants to; but the IMF must impose their self-oriented goal that save it face along.
Much have been talked about Pakistan’s bailout plea to the IMF. Apart from some genuine concerns about the growing debt burden and lack of clarity over policy direction on how Pakistan will deal with it, it is the politicisation and overwhelming projection of CPEC as a game changer that has contributed to making the project controversial in corporate circles in the neighbouring region. Pakistan’s strategists have failed to calculate CPEC’s economic and commercial potential. They conceive and project CPEC as a vision of regional connectivity that is a step closer to influence India.
In meantime, Chines agenda of second phase will focus on development, moderation and expansion of our industrial base through the establishment of special economic zones. However, foreign investors appear reluctant to invest in an economic and trade initiative which has been showcased as a strategic enterprise with a regional political purview.
It is also suggested that foreign investors will not go until the government from both side provide assurance to those investors strategically, and non-politically influenced, as it could be vulnerable in the longer term from business point of view in Pakistan knowingly there are dual power centers in Pakistan. Army have a different version towards it, as they see the CPEC as [the goose and its golden eggs]. They believe that political risk adds to the vulnerability of the investment made in such projects. When more lucrative investment options are available elsewhere in the region and further off, why would someone invest in CPEC?
Ironically – Chinese have their own reservations toward CPEC, since many companies have complained about red tape and the poor market capacity to absorb surplus production there, which is at risk. Therefore, they are reluctant to put money in risky projects. However, domestic investment is concerned, the local business community has largely been kept in the dark about the special economic zones; there is a perception that these would be exclusively for Chinese companies. China is also believed to be pursuing some other countries to invest in CPEC-related projects.
Therefore, the advise would be for Imran Khan-led government to focus more on demilitarization of CPEC and bringing it out of the shadow of its strategic orientation. It can arrange expos to not only showcase CPEC but also to make known Pakistan’s potential in other economic, commercial areas. If it was not addressd, this could also lead to the destruction of Pakistan itself. And to this, Imran and his government must show some seriousness toward it.