Building The Future: CPEC 2.0 – OpEd


The friendship between Pakistan and China, often referred to as the “iron brothers,” has reached a significant milestone with the signing of six crucial agreements to advance the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This momentous occasion coincides with the ten-year anniversary of CPEC, a transformative initiative that has ushered in substantial economic development and regional connectivity. As the world observes the evolution of this vital partnership, it is essential to analyze the implications and prospects that lie ahead.

CPEC, an ambitious project linking Pakistan’s Gwadar Port with China’s Xinjiang province, has been a pivotal force reshaping the economic landscape of the region. Launched in 2013, it stands as a symbol of enduring cooperation between Pakistan and China. Despite opposition from various quarters, including India, CPEC has continued to expand, contributing significantly to Pakistan’s infrastructure and economic growth.

A historic moment unfolded as former Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng presided over the signing of six crucial documents, propelling the second phase of CPEC. This ceremony reaffirmed the enduring strategic relations between the two nations. Vice Premier He conveyed President Xi Jinping’s unwavering support for Pakistan’s prosperity and development, underscoring the deep fraternal ties shared by both countries.

Vice Premier He, a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of China’s ruling Communist Party, reiterated China’s unique and enduring friendship with Pakistan. He reaffirmed China’s role as an “iron brother and strategic partner” and committed to providing economic and financial support to Pakistan. China also expressed its readiness to boost Pakistan’s agro and food exports, fostering economic cooperation.

The signing ceremony encompassed six pivotal documents, each contributing to the expansion and consolidation of CPEC:

Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC: Outlining the framework for bilateral cooperation on CPEC projects, with a focus on collaboration and progress monitoring. MoU on Establishing an Export Exchange Mechanism within CPEC: Facilitating trade and economic growth by streamlining exports through CPEC. Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for the Export of Dry Chillies from Pakistan to China: Enhancing agricultural cooperation, ensuring the safe export of dry chillies to China. Document on the Final Report on the Feasibility Study of Realignment of KKH Phase -II: Exploring the feasibility of realigning the Karakoram Highway, a vital transportation route under CPEC. MoU on the Industrial Workers Exchange Programme: Promoting people-to-people ties, facilitating the exchange of industrial workers between Pakistan and China.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his delight at the signing of these pivotal documents and extended his gratitude to Vice Premier He for commemorating the ten-year anniversary of CPEC. He highlighted that over USD 25 billion has been invested in sectors such as power, road infrastructure, hydropower, and public transport during CPEC’s first phase. Looking ahead to the second phase, Prime Minister Sharif emphasized the significance of business-to-business investment in agriculture and information technology. This phase aims to align Pakistan with Chinese standards for exports, further bolstering economic cooperation.

Vice Premier He’s visit to Pakistan held immense significance, occurring when Pakistan was on the brink of defaulting on foreign obligations. China played a crucial role by rolling over more than USD 5 billion in loans, highlighting the depth of their bilateral relationship.

CPEC is an integral part of China’s expansive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The BRI seeks to establish connectivity and foster economic development across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa, and Europe through a network of land and sea routes. While lauded as transformative, the BRI has faced criticism concerning mounting Chinese debt in smaller participating countries.

The signing of six pivotal agreements to advance the second phase of CPEC underscores the unwavering commitment of Pakistan and China to fortify their all-weather strategic partnership. As both nations celebrate the decade-long journey of CPEC, its transformative impact on Pakistan’s economy and regional connectivity remains evident. The second phase, with its focus on agriculture, information technology, and exports, holds immense promise for further enhancing economic cooperation. The iron brotherhood between Pakistan and China stands resolute, ensuring progress and prosperity for both nations. The world watches with keen interest as these two nations navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in their collaborative journey.  

Shah Khalid

Shah Khalid is a Peshawar-based columnist and focuses on power politics in South Asia.

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