By Sabah Aslam*
The importance of CPEC and the relationship which is as old as time between Pakistan and China in the realm of politics, economy and strategy is a compelling truth of the contemporary international relations. Both states show great respect to each other and the relationship goes beyond diplomatic and delves into the social fabric of the two states as well.
Even in the regional arena, China-Pakistan and their mutual understanding of the politics of South Asia along with the importance in the strategic turf of the current dynamics has set an example, and given a very clear message to the world that there is no alternative to this relationship.
Since the time CPEC was initiated, the entire nation of Pakistan was motivated regarding its success and the joint efforts of both the governments to modify the region and create a magnanimous project which would serve infrastructure, energy sector and economies well. Moreover, one can measure the magnitude of its popularity the way CPEC is under discussion at every forum and every corner of not just this state but OBOR (One Belt, One Road) is of a very categorical importance within China as well.
Without a doubt a successful CPEC project which will not just enhance the business but also elevate the strategic importance of the two states in not just South Asia but also serve as a means of regional connectivity is in the interest of both the countries and it will mutually benefit Pakistan and China. Furthermore it will become a strategically motivated alliance between the two states which will then proceed to take on all the feasible challenges within South Asia and the international realm.
CPEC happens to be a mutually beneficial project i.e. it is a win-win situation for both China and Pakistan and as an outcome, perhaps the entire region. The social, political and strategic features and elements of importance of CPEC make it a mega-project which cannot be easily hindered.
The most important part is that this mega project is not just between two states but between two peoples. This means that the people to people connectivity is as important as the government to government connectivity between Pakistan and China. Thus the social aspects of the relationships-which have always been of immense importance has now become more relevant. In fact the people-people connectivity aspect is one surety of the overall success of CPEC.
This is largely because the foundations of CPEC are based on the elevation of the social relations of the peoples of the China and Pakistan. For this reason the very first step which the two states have done happens to be the student exchange programs which will cater to serve as a way via which the culture of both states by each other can be better understood. This feature is the main factor of the purity between the relationships of the two states.
If you look at the vision and mission statement of CPEC you will find that it covers almost all the strategic areas that are important to play an active role in economic development.
The idea surrounding CPEC is one upon which the future of the two nations depend and when one says the future, one means the idea of the future generations. The understanding of language, culture and the overall identities of the two states is so important.
For this reason in Pakistan the government has taken various steps to incorporate the studying of Chinese language at the primary level of education. Not only that the Punjab Government has taken the initiative of sending many academics and scholars from various circles to China for a higher level of language study.
Furthermore the student exchange program has been another success because from it the level of understanding from a ground level between the two cultures has become easy. Every year, many Pakistani universities host a number of Chinese students from various faculties. This is then reciprocated by the Chinese side as well as a number of Pakistani students have become part of prestigious Chinese institutions.
Much more than that there have been many instances wherein the understanding of culture has become a diplomatic feature as well. There are plenty of Arts programs in Pakistan which showcase the cultural side of China via which the Pakistani side can learn about the rich traditions and history of China. There are various diplomatic and other institutional forums which host such programs.
All in all the idea is one which transcends all the elements of politics and goes deeper into the cultural and social aspects of a relationship which has become one of the most important realities of the 21st century. This is one way of safeguarding the regional connectivity and the strategic balance of South Asia.
Keeping in mind, the overall success of CPEC project, both the states are working closely to cut-down the negative social impacts, which are recently erupting for instance “illegal matchmaking”. Opportunists from both the states were involved in human trafficking under the umbrella of illegal matchmaking. But, recently, when both the state authorities came to know about this bitter reality, they assured cooperation, were on the same page and announced support on joint crackdown operation against all the groups involved. As, not only in Pakistan but also in China these businesses are strictly prohibited.
The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan cautioned the people of both states to remain vigilant and not to be cheated. …..the public does not believe in misleading information and works together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship.
Being citizens of responsible states, it is our utmost duty to be aware of all the scams and not be victimized of any of the swashbucklers. As one should know that the unbeatable success of CPEC and BRI is an element of discomfort for many detractors. From minor to major, these groups are using every possible mean to halt this project. This is the utmost duty of both the states and its people to safeguard this initiative. The people of both the states should play a role of promoter, promoter of prosperity, development and growth rather than being wronged and misused by any of the negative forces.
*Sabah Aslam is the Founder & Executive Director of Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR), and member visiting faculty Dept. of Peace & Conflict Studies, NUML, and School of Politics & IR, Quaid-I- Azam University, Islamabad.