With an announced investment of approximately $46 billion, Chinese authorities announced their unwavering reliance and confidence on Pakistan, their bordering neighbor and strategic ally.
The Chinese are known as brilliant thinkers and planners. Little wonder that many around the world were startled on how Beijing reposed so much trust on a country which is apparently, if not actually, infested with an alphabet soup of terrorist groups; ethnic militancy, sectarian wars, inter-communal killings, political assassinations, religious bigotry, you name it. Pakistan, unfortunately, has this all.
Why then, did China give such a powerful financial dose to Pakistan? Just for friendship’s sake? Obviously not. On a realistic note, both countries do not even have common cultural or historical ties which could predate the establishment of modern Islamic Republic of Pakistan or modern People’s Republic of China.
Pakistan is located in one of the world’s most ideal and prized region. With the Indian Ocean to its south, Arabian/Persian Gulf to its southwest, Central Asian Republics to its north, Afghanistan and Iran to its west and India to its east, it is carefully wedged in a zone which can rightfully be described as one which offers some interest or the other to a variety of geopolitical groups lying in the region.
The Western camp or the Russian camp, Sunni or Shia camp, Asian or Middle Eastern camp, come one come all, something about Pakistan appeals to them at certain points in time.
Take the case of the US; once a fast friend of Pakistan whose “alliance” is fast being overshadowed by Chinese dominance and a growing Russian interest. China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), a visionary geo-economic foreign policy of China, is a masterstroke of pure genius. Suddenly overnight, Pakistan transformed from a state on the verge of imminent collapse to an emerging ‘Asian Tiger’.
The Chinese know the art of diplomacy well. Their stated policy is the shared economic assistance, not pre-conditioned financial aid, to developing countries. The short-term goals will see a gradual rise in literacy, living conditions and the long-term “strategic” effects will see a more urbanized, modernized, sophisticated, progressive and tolerant neighborhood. Pakistan being chosen as the first massive recipient of assistance has to be understood: in due course of time, Pakistan will become a regional economic melting pot of traders, industrialists and transporters. As a transportation and maritime economic hub of South Asia, Pakistan first has to be set on the course of course of assured internal security and parallel development side by side, leading to lifelong prosperity instead of momentary stability.
And yet all we see in the media are controversies emanating from the same quarters which can tolerate nothing in the interest of the country. Petty domestic politics, foreign-sponsored propaganda/smear campaigns and incompetent civilian narratives have allowed the wave of misperceptions to continue unabated.
CPEC is a mammoth bi-regional economic project (Middle East and Asia) which will hold innumerable benefits for traders in any corner of the world. With logistical passage through Pakistan, fears of choke-points by hostile elements will not be a concern.
Concurrently, Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas will also ensure that the threats of a militarized hostile zone in the north will be effectively neutralized once and for all. To top it off, “almost all” East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other separatist Uighur terrorists funded by anti-China groups have been eliminated by the Pakistani military. These proxies were to be used for sabotaging CPEC to discredit the project and create distrust between Pakistan and China.
Pakistan Armed Forces are doing whatever they can at their disposal to play their mandated role in securing CPEC’s progress. General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, directed the establishment of a dedicated security force exclusively for the CPEC project, which will be commanded by a Major General. This is the security aspect of CPEC.
Next comes the political aspect. So far, Pakistan’s most popular mainstream political parties have generally supported the project out of ambition because, as they say, money can help in uniting disgruntled friends. As long as provinces are assured of substantial investments to keep them in motion, the formula will work.
Now coming to the actual i.e. economic aspect. The unprecedented scope and scale of CPEC can compel corporations to rush for investments in Pakistan if they are made aware about the benefits that await them. To do this, diplomacy assumes greater importance. For until there is a concerted effort by the Government of Pakistan to initiate a global outreach campaign under the banner of CPEC, we cannot afford sitting silently for the infrastructure to be complete.
Ambassadors, Consulars and High Commissioners stationed in key locations across the world should be tasked by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to organize road shows, awareness seminars, broadcast ads in foreign media and write official op-eds inviting global investors to rush to Pakistan as the “Economic Hub of South Asia”. Duty-free zones like those in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE should be established so that another incentive adds to the prospective interest for investment in Pakistan.
The Ministry for Planning, Development & Reforms should constitute a joint PR task force with MoFA for this economic diplomacy. A sober attitude will not help. It is time for proactive (“aggressive”) global diplomacy.
Consider the case of our neighbor India; with nothing to offer as far as transportation routes are concerned, India has found opportunity to build on a historic cultural connection with the rest of its neighbors in South Asia. “Project Mausam”, launched by the Narendra Modi government, seeks to re-invigorate ancient Indian Ocean maritime routes with present-day India as its focal pivot (connecting Asia, Africa and Europe). In short, it is an Indian version of China’s popular “Maritime Silk Road” initiative. Hoping to exploit its strategic communications and cultural history tools, the Indian government is struggling to invite regional attention to its project.
On the other hand, CPEC presents a two-fold, dual domain benefit to corporations and countries: sea trade and land routes. The latter is a Unique Selling Point (USP) waiting to be duly marketed. Pakistani diplomats can be given periodical themes for marketing, some of which can include the following:
“CPEC – A Shared Asia For All”
“CPEC – Connecting Europe to the East, via Land and Sea”
“CPEC – The Economic Hub of Asia”
“CPEC – Reaching The Heart of Asia” (i.e. Central Asia)
The above are a few samples I could think of in just a few seconds. Imagine the effects which state-sponsored global diplomacy could have.
image credit: Dawn.