These days the “Asian Competitiveness Annual Report 2018” has become talk of the town, which says that BRI’s flagship project i.e. CPEC) is now being extended towards Afghanistan. The same was highlighted during China’s Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference that was held on April 11, 2018. China has planned to extend USD 50 billion under CPEC to Afghanistan. Surely this is a good step for promoting regional economic integration because this fresh and more advanced foreign policy is chiefly motivated by comprehensive geostrategic goals. Moreover it will strengthen the CPEC as a brand in the realm of International Political Economy. Not only this corridor will link Kashgar-Xinjiang in China’s remote west with the Port of Gwadar in the province of Baluchistan, this will also assume the harbor’s closeness to the Middle East and Persian Gulf. It could be used as a transshipment plug for China’s energy deliveries removing the requirement to go through the Passage of Malacca in Southeast Asia. One of the primary advantages of extending CPEC to Afghanistan is that it will offer large geo-strategic openings for Pakistan thus making Pakistan further eye-catching for an extensive diversity of global players. Moreover, CPEC through Afghanistan will eventually permit Russia and the landlocked states of Central Asian Republics (CAR’s) to further increase trade activity through the bigger Indian Ocean, thus leading to the formation of formerly unexplored economic means which will revitalize every one and generate revenue for transportation for Pakistan
However it’s obvious that all the actors in CPEC are concerned with reaping benefit out of this game-changing economic project. India, as usual has protested to China over CPEC and acts as a major stumbling block in India-China relations. Since China does not have a reliable passage to the Indian Ocean; CPEC will unlock an extensive variety of routes for China and its trade ally i.e. Pakistan.
The supreme possible advantage of expanding CPEC will provide progress in Pakistan’s industrial sector. Pakistan’s industrial goods and products are expected to be generally adapted in One Belt One Road (OBOR) participatory states.
Now here comes the most important question that needs to be addressed. The question is whether CPEC’s rival will accept Pakistan to become the hub of trade and economic activities. The CPEC comprises all the feature through which it could fetch economic avenues to Pakistan and can foster regional and cross regional economic and trade integration between South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and West Asia. However, CPEC is confronted by some serious substantial hindrances ranging from India’s opposition, regional security environment, and internal instability to political discontent among various political actors in the Pakistani polity. There is a need to address these above mentioned challenges because expanding CPEC to Afghanistan will cause certain security issues as well. Afghanistan’s internal political instability, terrorism, separatism and extremism, are the issues that may collectively prevent the economic activities to be easily and freely carried out. There must be some kind of confidence building measures between the governments which should give definite security assurance to the participating states. However apart from these security concern (which must not be ignored) the outcome of this extensive economic policy will be more beneficial. Once there is an economic boost in place it will help remove evils as well. Because In order to boost the economic activities all the states will take strict measures to assure a secure and terrorism free environment keeping in mind the mutual benefits of each other.
Pakistan’s business community should also play an active role in successful materialization of CPEC especially when it is planned to be extended towards Afghanistan. This will further strengthen the all-weather strategic partnership between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. CPEC is of immense importance for a land locked country like Afghanistan. It could facilitate Afghanistan reduce its reliance on foreign aid and act as a stabilizing factor to counter the negative fallout of Indian influence in Afghanistan thus boosting economic activities by putting its fragile economy on a sound footing.
*Qura tul ain Hafeez has done M Phil in international relations from Quaid-I Azam University Islamabad. She is currently working as a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. She can be reached at Quraathashmi[at]gmail.com