Amidst the Recent Developments of G-20 Summit, Where Does Pakistan Stand with C.P.E.C?

The world around us is changing at a mind boggling pace. We are moving away from a unipolar, US led world, and China is emerging as a strong contender to the global US hegemony. However, we are now moving past the era of permanent allies and foes. Countries with decades old conflicts are “rising to the occasion”, and giving priority to their long term sustainability.

The recent G20 Summit, hosted by India, marked a significant development that took place on the sidelines. To counter the impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), countries like America, the Middle Eastern block, India and even Europe have unveiled an ambitious plan to setup sea and rail connectivity among these countries, separated today by thousands of kilometers.

On the face of it, this may seem an over-ambitious initiative, but if we examine the underlying synergies and resolve being displayed by the countries involved, this initiative is highly likely to take some tangible form in the near future. The most central region to this new development is the Middle East, which has lately had its fair share of instability and conflict.

However, influential powers like America have exerted their influence to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, with the exception of the Palestinian dispute. Although brokered by China, the recent “ceasefire” between religious arch rivals, Saudia Arabia and Iran, also marks the removal of a major hurdle to this development.

Where does Pakistan Stand in this Re-alignment?

In the midst of all this, the pertinent question is, where does Pakistan stand in all of this? And what is the current status of our “game-changer” initiative, CPEC? Well, the answer to this question is unfortunately in the negative, and this is not at all a good sign for Pakistan, and Sino-Pak relations over the mid to long term.

If we look at the initial plans of CPEC, its primary areas of focus were establishment of Industrial Zones across the CPEC route, upgrading of the existing Karakoram Highway (KKH), and laying of a railway track connecting China and Pakistan. Unfortunately, instead of pursuing these projects, which had the potential to generate invaluable foreign exchange for Pakistan, the Governments have been pursuing projects like Orange Line / Lahore Metro.

Although there is not much wrong with the Orange Line project in theory, but can a struggling and developing nation like us afford such luxuries. So, it is all about misplaced priorities, and misallocation of financial as well as human resources.

What is the Way Forward for Pakistan?

Now, let us discuss the way forward for Pakistan, especially in this rapidly evolving geo-political and socio economic landscape.

Revitalize the CPEC Initiative

Instead of mocking the practicality of the recently inked initiative between America, Middle East and others, Pakistan needs to focus on its CPEC initiative, and pick up the pace with the development of the necessary infrastructure.

The Critical Role of Gwadar Port

Whether its importing raw materials or exporting value added finished goods, the role of our Gwadar Port is critical to the success of CPEC, and our economy as a whole. Although this world class port is operational, the Industrial Zones that should have been developed around it, are still facing bureaucratic and infrastructural delays.

The Way Forward with Neighbors

When it comes to countries, it is wisely said that we can’t change our neighbors. But what we can do instead is create the enabling environment that facilitates bilateral trade. Whether it’s Afghanistan to the West, or India to the East, we need to open our borders to well regulated bilateral trade.

This will facilitate the struggling masses of all these three countries to access basic necessity items at affordable prices, with relative ease. So far as the conflicts and tensions are concerned, there is nothing that diplomacy can’t solve.

History is filled with examples where arch rivals have now become biggest trade partners, resulting in a mutually beneficial relationship among the nations involved. Rigidity and insistence on previously stated positions are detrimental to making break-throughs in such complex areas, especially when so many vested interests are working hard, in the background, to sabotage such efforts.

Down the line, Pakistan can also become yet another key partner in this recent US led initiative as well, as we provide easy connectivity across Central Asia and even Europe. In order to truly progress, countries need to change their priorities, and shift the focus from military assets to industrial and technological innovation.

A stage comes when the economic stakes between nations are so high that any sort of conflict or tension is simply not viable for the countries or nations involved. The recent trade war between China and America is a classical example, whereby despite severe tensions, trade ties still remain strong between these two behemoths.


The bottom line is, Pakistan needs to set its priorities straight, and look towards this global re-alignment as an opportunity to leverage its geo-strategic position for the better.

Being a country of over 250 million people, Pakistan simply cannot afford to lose more time and resources to conflict and tensions with other countries.