China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the Belt and Road’s Mixing Bowl

BE2C2 Report – Pakistan has announced that it shall be making foray into new areas of agriculture, industrial development and socioeconomic uplift in the next phase of the multibillion dollar Pakistan China Economic project (CPEC).

According to background discussions, top level understanding has been reportedly reached in Beijing between officials of the two close neighbors during PM Khan’s second visit to the country’s ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partner’.

The deals come as China’s steadfast support to Pakistan on all issues remain the cornerstone of the two ‘iron brothers’ decades-old relations amid changing geopolitical dynamics in the region and arch-rival neighboring India’s continued effort to destabilize it.

PM Khan’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday, the last day of his four-day official visit was highly significant.While the new government in Pakistan- led by PM Khan, continues to face fiscal crisis and decade-old misgovernance malaise, Chinese support has been like a bulwark, much to the chagrin of erstwhile global players seeking dominance in the region as multipolar world emerges.

That Xi Jinping reiterated China’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and further expressed China’s appreciation for Pakistan’s sustained and successful efforts in the fight against terrorism and to create a peaceful neighborhood, was assuring to the nation.

Pakistan continues to face external threats- post independence from India in 1947, including hybrid warfare, and it has also moved several mileposts from former ally the US- the latter is seeking Islamabad’s assistance in pulling out of the never-ending Afghanistan war at the earliest.

Pakistan has given its full support- as lately as last week PM Khan said Pakistan will no longer take sides in internal conflicts and urged all sides to seize the historical moment.

As happened in the 80s during Afghan war against the Soviets, that Pakistan is again supportive of the long-delayed efforts for peace in the war-torn landscape west of its border- and in the process having incurred more than US$230 billion in economic losses and a generational stepdown has been well taken by all sides.

Such a mega set-back and then a humongous step-forward for peace by Pakistan is a game-changer, observers stay.

China, its closest and the nearest ally, came forward too, and continues to be empathetic with Islamabad’s woes, observers said.

Therefore, when the two leaders at their Summit on Sunday, affirmed the resolve to further strengthen their strategic cooperative partnership in all fields including political, security, economic and trade, and people-to-people exchanges, the narrative is understandable and explainable even to the common man on the street.

Elsewhere, the $64 billion CPEC and its umbrella trillion-dollar Belt and Road continues to ring a bell.In common parlance, the Silk Road conjures images of adventurers like Marco Polo navigating ancient trading routes connecting China with Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. But due to geopolitics, critics say that global players are wary of an increasingly assertive superpower’s push to spread its influence.

The Trump administration has sought to capitalize on the doubts, with Vice President Mike Pence telling Southeast Asian nations the U.S. wouldn’t “offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”

Nevertheless, Pakistan is the first beneficiary of Xi’s signature project and timely- CPEC is the flagship of BRI project in South Asia and well underway.

At least 157 nations and international organizations have signed up (including more than 60 in 2018 ).

Back in 2015, Pakistan’s top militaryman Gen Raheel Sharif had said the army was ready to pay any cost for making CPEC a reality.

The BRI has now extended into South America, the Caribbean and even the Arctic. Italy in 2019 became the first Group of Seven nation to sign up, brushing off warnings from its American and European allies.

While Xi calls his project “a road for peace,” yet other world powers including Japan also remain skeptical about its stated aims and even more worried about unspoken ones.

The unspoken ones, Pakistani thought-leaders say, is the fact that CPEC is a game-changer for the country beset with fiscal woes and economic crisis. But in the West, the jury is still out on BRI, particularly on grounds of regional geopolitics and global supremacy.

Several leaders in the region look at China’s signature campaign as a fast-track and an alternate to institutionalized lending by multilateral institutions.

Lauding the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, PM Khan said he believes BRI has “become much more than the Chinese leadership had imagined”.

(BE2C2  Report is a data journalism initiative of Irshad Salim Associates, a New Jersey, USA, based consulting firm in association with BE2C2 in Pakistan