Pakistan and China, often referred to as staunch allies, have reinforced their strategic partnership through the signing of six pivotal documents, marking the initiation of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This significant milestone coincides with the celebration of a decade of CPEC, a transformative initiative that has ushered in substantial economic development and regional connectivity. As the world observes the evolution of this vital collaboration, it is essential to explore the potential implications and future prospects.
CPEC, an ambitious endeavor that links Pakistan’s Gwadar Port with China’s Xinjiang province, has played a pivotal role in reshaping the economic landscape of the region. Launched in 2013, it has symbolized the enduring friendship and cooperation between Pakistan and China. Despite facing opposition, notably from India, CPEC has consistently expanded, making significant contributions to Pakistan’s infrastructure development and economic growth.
The Ceremonial Pinnacle
On a momentous occasion, former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng presided over the signing of six momentous documents, signifying the commencement of the second phase of CPEC. The ceremony served as a reaffirmation of the enduring and unwavering strategic relations between these two nations. During this significant event, Vice Premier He conveyed President Xi Jinping’s resolute support for Pakistan’s prosperity and development, underscoring the deep-rooted fraternal bonds between the two nations.
As a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of China’s ruling Communist Party, Vice Premier He reiterated China’s unparalleled and steadfast friendship with Pakistan. He emphasized China’s role as an “iron brother and strategic partner” and pledged continued economic and financial support for Pakistan. Additionally, China expressed its readiness to boost Pakistan’s agricultural and food exports, further enhancing economic collaboration.
Key Documents for the Future
The signing ceremony in late July featured six pivotal documents, each contributing to the expansion and consolidation of CPEC:
Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC: This document establishes the framework for bilateral collaboration on CPEC projects, emphasizing cooperative efforts and progress monitoring.
MoU on Establishing an Export Exchange Mechanism within CPEC: This memorandum of understanding focuses on facilitating trade and economic growth by streamlining exports through CPEC.
Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for the Export of Dry Chillies from Pakistan to China: This protocol enhances agricultural cooperation, ensuring the safe and efficient export of dry chillies to China.
Document on the Final Report on the Feasibility Study of Realignment of KKH Phase -II: This report explores the feasibility of realigning the Karakoram Highway, a vital transportation route under CPEC.
MoU on the Industrial Workers Exchange Programme: Facilitating people-to-people ties, this memorandum of understanding promotes the exchange of industrial workers between Pakistan and China.
A Vision for the Second Phase
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his delight at the signing of these pivotal documents and conveyed his gratitude to Vice Premier He for commemorating the ten-year anniversary of CPEC. He acknowledged that CPEC’s first phase had attracted more than USD 25 billion in investments, primarily in sectors such as power, road infrastructure, hydropower, and public transport.
Looking forward to the second phase, Prime Minister Sharif emphasized the significance of business-to-business investments in agriculture and information technology. This phase aims to enable Pakistan to meet Chinese standards and requirements for exports, thereby strengthening economic cooperation.
Vice Premier He’s visit to Pakistan holds significant importance, given Pakistan’s near-default on foreign obligations. China played a pivotal role in assisting Pakistan by rolling over more than USD 5 billion in loans, underscoring the depth of their bilateral relationship.
CPEC is an integral part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The BRI seeks to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa, and Europe through an extensive network of land and sea routes, fostering economic development and connectivity. While praised as a transformative initiative, the BRI has also faced criticism due to concerns about smaller countries burdened by mounting Chinese debt.
The signing of these six crucial documents heralds the unwavering commitment of Pakistan and China to strengthen their all-weather strategic partnership. As both nations celebrate a decade of CPEC, the project’s transformative impact on Pakistan’s economy and regional connectivity stands undeniable. The second phase, with its focus on agriculture, information technology, and exports, holds significant promise for further enhancing economic cooperation. The enduring bond between Pakistan and China, often referred to as the “iron brotherhood,” remains unshakable, and their unique relationship will continue to flourish, promoting progress and prosperity for both nations. The world observes with keen interest as these two nations navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in their collaborative journey.