International Mantra of Picking Holes & Above Board CPECA
South Asia is at crossroads of major powers’ Great Game, struggling to work on new avenues of cooperation for regional peace and prosperity. Rampant poverty, widespread inequalities and increasing development challenges together with the menace of climate change is calling for regional connectivity. As these issues are trans-national, their resolution requires regional solutions. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is an initiative which allows Pakistan to play a leadership role for regional connectivity. However, CPEC has been under severe criticism, apprehensions and faced highly negative propaganda due to involvement of China and fears of India and international players, envisaging sustainable economic growth of China and Pakistan. Ironically, the countries fully involved in exporting negativity are otherwise approaching Pak and China to be part of the CPEC.
Successful completion of the first phase of the CPEC, the improvement of coordination, communication, and efficiency doubtlessly appears as an extraordinarily urgent matter. The CPEC is entering its crucial second phase, broadening the range of development projects from infrastructure (focusing on the build-up of road networks and energy generating capacities) towards measures aiming at the promotion of the country’s overall industrialization and modernization. However, Pakistan faces challenges in the operationalization of CPEC due to under-staffed national institution. That is why; demands for the establishment of a central CPEC institution with full authority over all corridor projects within Pakistan could be heard. Mainly because an increasing number of reports have revealed that the civilian institutions responsible for the CPEC’s implementation are understaffed and overwhelmed, facing manifold difficulties such as lack of experience and subsequent ineffective project management, which in turn leads to delays and other hurdles in realizing projects for overseeing the project and underscored the need to protect Pakistan’s interests in the project while keeping it safe from external threats.
A new ‘CPEC authority’ would serve several functions, particularly consensus-building between the federal government and provinces, inter-agency coordination, capacity building, and project facilitation. The CPECA was constituted on the basis of the ‘CPEC Authority Ordinance, 2019’ aims at the establishment of the ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (CPECA)’.The CPECA and the tax concessions related to the Gwadar port were approved by the National Development Council (NDC), a new body formed in June 2019 entrusted with the tasks of setting policies and strategies for development vis-a-vis formulate and tailor policies to achieve accelerated economic growth. In this regard, CPECA will remove major bottlenecks in the implementation of the corridor between China and Pakistan as well as boost the country’s capacity to gain more benefits from this development scheme, like encompassing an increase in overall exports, reduction of trade deficit with China, and improving the competitively of domestic companies.
The constitution of the CPECA is totally an administrative arrangement, the project of CPEC has passed through three different governments and raising questions regarding national consensus and political difference is totally baseless and absurd. All the Political parties of Pakistan have always been on one page on projects and affairs of national development / interest. Critics also points out the involvement of Pakistan’s army in the project without realizing the cons of Pakistan’s strategic location as well as threats to it because of terrorism and ISIS presence in the region.
Moreover, Pakistan Army has a long and rich history of under taking national level projects e.g. construction of Karakoram Highway (KKH), dams, roads of international standards, and bridges. Sole aim of Army for actively taking part in national level projects is to serve the country and contribute in national development projects. Pakistan Army owing to its unique character has always served the nation and country in conflicts and peace without asking for resources or funds and the institution has taken pride to serve the nation and country. Pakistan Army is historically affiliated to the most important and difficult part of CPEC i.e. construction of KKH. Moreover, as said earlier, the security situation of Pakistan, which was destabilized by foreign involvement mainly ‘India’, demands exclusive security arrangements. The government of Pakistan tasked Pak Army being the most capable institution to evolve security set for CPEC.
India also opposed CPEC on the pretext of its passing through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). Pakistan’s area of GBhas never was part of Kashmir, the people of GB even before partition had claimed their independence and later on requested the government of Pakistan for formal annexation in 1947. The non-kinetic attack on CPEC is the Indian narrative being supplemented by the US that “CPEC is passing through disputed territory”. China has also stated on the issue that “over 70 countries and international organizations, including the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council, have signed cooperation agreements with Beijing on the OBOR initiative and incorporated it into important resolutions”. Furthermore, as far as the command of CPECA entrusted with a retd senior officer is concerned, it is a practice in vogue in entire world; retd senior military commanders are always appointed on sensitive appointments owing to their vast experience and abilities. This single fact can’t form the basis that army has taken over the CPEC.
In this context, “The Establishment of a new Authority for the CPEC” by Dr Siegfried O. Wolf Director of Research at SADF (South Asia Democratic Forum), is totally out of context and biased. The content has the biased agenda of targeting CPECA for no substantial reason. It is purely a legitimate authority. Instead of increasing grievances, CPEC is going for the development of Pakistan without any discrimination. CPEC’s passing through GB and peoples’ approval of that is a living proof that GB is an integral part of Pakistan. Overall, CPECA will serve in the enhancement of national institutions, making the project more transparent and allowing civilian and military leadership to coordinate more efficiently without any bureaucratic red tapes.
About the Author: Adeel Mukhtar Mirza is a research scholar at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. The author delivers lectures on international relations and the changing world dynamics. He has numerous published articles in the domain of International Relations. He graduated as a Strategic Studies’ scholar from National Defense
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.