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CPEC changes the shape of regional connectivity

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, initiated in 2015, has been a transformative venture for Pakistan and the region. From addressing economic benefits to facing challenges posed by Western India and internal elements, the journey from 2013 to 2023 reveals both gains and setbacks. Global reports suggest significant economic growth in Pakistan under this project, portraying it as a beacon for a bright future. CPEC stands as a key game-changer and a pivotal project for the 21st century.
From 2013 to 2023, successive Chinese and Pakistani governments shared a common goal of seeing the completion of the CPEC project. Recognizing its fundamental importance in establishing Pakistan on modern economic fronts, both countries signed agreements worth $11 billion in 2020, encompassing various projects. Among these, the railway project is considered the most crucial under CPEC. The impact of these endeavors is evident in the expectations that CPEC would empower Pakistan to gain control over its energy crisis, enhance electricity production in Sindh, contribute to the development of marginalized regions, and usher in a new era of construction and progress in various parts of the country.
The CPEC project, conceived as a corridor connecting Pakistan, China, and Central Asian countries, has indeed proven to be a revolutionary initiative over the past decade. The claim of establishing Gwadar as an economic hub has materialized, and after 10 years, it is evident that CPEC is a genuine catalyst for construction and progress. Out of the total 88 approved projects under CPEC, a majority have been completed, marking a significant milestone in the development and implementation of this transformative initiative
Despite the challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, progress continues on the remaining projects associated with CPEC over the past seven years. Despite the global disruptions caused by the pandemic, approximately 75,000 individuals were employed daily in various CPEC-related activities. Between 2020 and 2021, when the world was grappling with the effects of the pandemic, around 47,000 people were working on projects. This included approximately 40,000 Pakistanis and 7,000 Chinese workers, contributing to the ongoing labor force engaged in the development of the corridor.
Both countries’ governments collaborated with Chinese and Pakistani labor to give the CPEC project its final shape. By working with Chinese and Pakistani labor, it is anticipated that by 2030, nearly 2.4 million people will benefit from employment opportunities. According to defense and economic analysts, Gwadar is expected to play a pivotal role in national development until 2050. An estimate suggests that, in collaboration with CPEC, Gwadar will contribute significantly to pulling over a million individuals out of poverty, making a substantial impact on one of Pakistan’s most disadvantaged regions.
Under the CPEC project developmental initiatives have been undertaken to uplift marginalized regions, creating employment opportunities for thousands. The increase in electricity generation capacity has successfully put an end to the load shedding that persisted for 15 years within the country. The absence of electricity had adversely affected Pakistan’s domestic industries. Due to the power shortage, in the span of five years, 40% of the textile industry shifted from Pakistan to Bangladesh. This resulted in a 95% decrease in Pakistani textile exports and a 14.5% increase in Bangladesh’s exports. Additionally, the poor condition of roads was a significant challenge that needed attention.
The maintenance of these roads required an annual investment of nearly one billion, posing a significant challenge for a developing country like Pakistan. However, due to CPEC, these issues have been promptly addressed. The immense financial resources allocated to the construction projects have surpassed $69 billion to date. The 820-kilometer-long optical fiber link from Rawalpindi to Khunjerab provides an alternative means of communication with the internet and the international community. Before the underground optical fiber, we were dependent on the United States and India for communication. CPEC has brought about a transformative change in this regard
Previously, security risks existed for Pakistan due to Indian and American espionage, but with the stable system provided by China, control has been regained over these security concerns. Similar to Pakistan’s roads, the railway system was also in a dilapidated state. The railway system, built during the British era over 150 years ago, was outdated, but with the construction of numerous tracks under CPEC, the ML-1 track is being developed. The ML-1 track will be 1,872 kilometers long, with trains running at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Thirty-three new and modern buses will operate at this speed. This project is expected to be completed in five years. In the second phase of these major projects, nine special economic zones are being established in all four provinces, including Islamabad, Kashmir, and Gilgit. Within Faisalabad, the Iqbal Industrial Park Zone aims to provide employment opportunities for over 3 million people. The creation of these economic zones is anticipated to bring about a socio-economic revolution in Pakistan. The federal government has designated Gwadar as a center for duty-free trade by exempting it from income taxes and customs duties for 23 years.
Forty-one Chinese companies have announced an investment of around 77 billion rupees in Gwadar. Additionally, the construction of Pakistan’s largest airport is underway in Gwadar, covering large area. Work is also progressing on hospital and technical college constructions. The second phase involves the establishment of a pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan. These projects are contributing to a benefit of 200 billion dollars, indicating significant economic potential in Pakistan. However, it’s essential to note that before CPEC, Pakistan faced challenges in the investment and construction sectors, with power shortages, unemployment, and economic downturn. As of December 2023, Pakistan is emerging as a beacon of development, with the province of Balochistan, once marginalized, now reaping the benefits of CPEC.
Gwadar has contributed to Pakistan’s development, altering the fate of Balochistan. Similarly, major projects in other provinces are illuminating possibilities for progress in marginalized areas. New dams are being constructed, leading to the eradication of load shedding. There is an increase in electricity generation capacity, and fears in its wake have subsided. The areas through which these projects are passing are witnessing the light of development and progress
On November 23, 2019, the United States portrayed the CPEC as a debt trap, reflecting the ongoing propaganda against Pakistan and China’s projects in the eyes of Indian and European media. As Pakistan approaches the year 2023, marking the completion of its tenure, the initiation of projects under CPEC Phase-II is anticipated. China’s rapid progress and peaceful economic development are astonishing the world, and in the days to come, China is expected to reshape the global landscape. Pakistan is directly benefiting from China’s advancement, and countries in the region are closely observing its impact, distinguishing between friends and foes in light of these developments.
India seems resistant to acknowledging or appreciating the progress and changes happening around Pakistan, which is reflected in the daily propaganda through Indian print and electronic media. As Pakistanis, our responsibility lies in playing our part and fulfilling our roles to contribute to the completion of these development projects. Despite any misinformation or propaganda, it’s crucial for us to focus on our individual and collective responsibilities, working diligently in our respective fields to ensure the success and progress of these initiatives.