by: Mr. Ovais Ali Khokhar, Chairman, Board of Experts, Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future (PRCCSF), Islamabad:
CPEC: A Transformative Force in Regional Connectivity: In the dynamic landscape of Asian economies, the past decade has witnessed remarkable growth, solidifying Asia as the global economic center. As countries in the region surge ahead, the importance of connectivity in today’s globalized era cannot be overstated. At the forefront of inter-regional connectivity is China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) emerging as a linchpin for Central Asia-South Asia connectivity.
Positioned strategically, Pakistan’s geographical location provides a gateway for landlocked Central Asian nations to connect with South Asia and China. CPEC, a vital component of BRI, symbolizes a visionary initiative fostering socio-economic progress, diplomatic ties, and collaboration across diverse regions. At its core, Gwadar Port plays a pivotal role, connecting South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East and positioning Pakistan as a central hub for regional connectivity.
Central Asian republics, rich in natural resources, are landlocked and lack direct sea access. CPEC provides a crucial initiative for these nations, allowing them to reach the sea and achieve their trade goals. The completion of railway networks and road projects under CPEC is narrowing distances, promoting regional growth, and facilitating trade between regions.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other Central Asian nations are actively engaging with Pakistan and China through CPEC. The mega trans-regional railway project, ML-1 under CPEC phase-II, will connect Karachi-Peshawar-Kabul-Mazar-e-Sharif and Termez, enhancing connectivity across South Asia, Central Asia, and Europe.
CPEC presents strategic opportunities for Central Asian nations to transport their energy resources to global and regional markets. In return, Pakistan gains access to new markets in Central Asia and Europe, boosting trade revenue. China’s investments in infrastructure in Central Asia since the 1990s align with its broader strategy of eradicating security threats through economic prosperity.
In conclusion, CPEC, a flagship initiative within BRI, holds immense potential for economic, geopolitical, and social benefits. It serves as a connecting hub between South and Central Asia, fostering enduring regional integration and socio-economic connectivity. CPEC’s focus on peaceful coexistence and economic development positions it as a transformative force, paving the way for positive transformations and regional stability.