The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the flagship project of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, has been projected as a game-changer for Pakistan’s economy. It is expected that the $50 billion project would not just help raise Pakistan’s economic output but also transform the country, which is at present infamous for its terror credentials. However, a report has revealed that Pakistan may not gain much from CPEC in its present form. The report by UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), prepared on the request of China, has made some disturbing predictions for Pakistan. Such as:
- The report said CPEC, which will traverse through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) may create “geopolitical tension” in the region by igniting further tensions between India and Pakistan. “The dispute over Kashmir is also of concern since the crossing of the CPEC in the region might create geopolitical tension with India and ignite further political instability,” said the report on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
- This problem can be resolved only when China take India on board OBOR but this cannot happen as long as Pakistan continues to claim PoK as its own. Secondly, Pakistan also needs to shun terrorism to start a peaceful relationship with India.
- The report says that CPEC could fuel separatist movement in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. While noting that CPEC could serve as the “driver for trade and economic integration” between China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, the report said that the project may also cause several problems within Pakistan and reignite separatist movement in the country due to opposition in Balochistan. “However, social and environmental safeguards are a concern. The CPEC could lead to widespread displacement of local communities. In Balochistan, there are concerns that migrants from other regions of Pakistan will render ethnic Baloch a minority in the province,” it said.
- The report says that instability in Afghanistan could cast a shadow over the viability of the CPEC. “Afghanistan’s political instability could also limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active,” it said.
- Moreover, the report says that there are concerns over CPEC passing through the already narrow strip of cultivable land in the mountainous western Pakistan, destroying farmland and orchards. The resulting resettlements will reduce local population into an “economically subservient minority”, it said, adding, “In addition, Hazaras are another minority of concern. If the benefits of the proposed CPEC are reaped by large conglomerates, linked to Chinese or purely Punjabi interests, the identity and culture of the local population could be further marginalised,” the report cautioned.
- “Marginalisation of local population groups could reignite separatist movements and toughen military response from the Government,” it further said.
The UN report says that CPEC would “wide-reaching implications for China and for the countries it links across the Asia-Pacific and for the global economy.” But to realise the full potential of the project, the report has pointed some prerequisites. It said that CPEC should be founded on principles such as trust, confidence and sharing benefits among participating states. These are, however, missing at present. Second, CPEC should play a positive role in the response to climate change. “Lastly, to be effective and deliver results in a timely fashion, it should go beyond bilateral project transactions to promote regional and multilateral policy frameworks,” the report said. (With PTI inputs)