11.07.2024 Author: Taut Bataut

CPEC Phase 2: Bridging Nations and Economies from Asia to Africa

CPEC Phase 2: Bridging Nations and Economies from Asia to Africa

The first phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been completed, and the project has entered into its second phase. This phase provides great opportunities for Pakistan, China, Africa, the Gulf States, and the Central Asian countries to increase their mutual trade and connect with the rest of the world in a much more secure and efficient way, decreasing their trade cost and increasing security.

CPEC Infrastructure and Economic Development

The focus of the first phase of the CPEC was on the launch of novel power projects in Pakistan and the development of infrastructure. Meanwhile, the second phase of the project is about the enhancement and development of the mining and IT sector, the modernization of agriculture, and the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Pakistan. CPEC is much more vital for Pakistan than China as it would stabilize Pakistan’s stagnant and struggling economy along with creating fresh opportunities for GCC investments in the country. An Oil Terminal City, with substantial storage space, will be of greater interest to the GCC states. CPEC provides a much shorter path to China for the import of oil and gas.

Regional Connectivity and Trade Opportunities

Under the CPEC project, the Karakoram Highway, often regarded as one of the wonders of the world due to its difficult terrain, is also being upgraded. The upgradation of this highway is critical for the success of CPEC, as it not only boosts north-south connectivity but also enhances east-west maritime and land trade links. China is also developing its Western province of Xinjiang for connectivity with the CPEC. Gwadar port serves as the best option for the Central Asian landlocked countries and Afghanistan. The Central Asian region holds great natural energy resources. Trade and connectivity with the Central Asian nations can help Pakistan combat its energy crisis. Moreover, Pakistan can also access the Central Asian markets through rail and road connectivity. Pakistan has already started working on the Trans-Afghan railway project, which will provide connectivity between Pakistan and the Central Asian countries. The construction of CPEC and its connectivity with Central Asia will further strengthen ties between the two sides.

Pakistani Premier Shehbaz Sharif, on his recent visit to Dushanbe, said that Afghanistan and Tajikistan can also use the CPEC and Pakistani ports for trade. These links can also help create a prevailing peace and stability in South Asia. India, the arch-rival of Pakistan, can also use the road and rail links constructed under the CPEC project to conduct trade with the Central Asian region and Afghanistan. India is also one of the rising nations in South Asia. India seeks to access the Central Asian markets and form cordial relations with Afghanistan. This Indian ambition could only be materialized by forging fraternal relations with Pakistan and through connectivity with the CPEC.

Pakistan is also facing difficulties in its relations with Afghanistan. The latter is a victim of unjust Western sanctions and needs economic stability. For this purpose, it seeks to establish cordial economic relations with the neighboring countries. Pakistan also seeks to establish fraternal relations with Afghanistan. It is the only solution for Pakistan to get rid of the menace of terrorism. CPEC provides a great opportunity for both sides to strengthen their relations.

Geo-Political Dimensions and International Perspectives

Although CPEC is actually an economic project, aimed at boosting regional trade and connectivity – the West and its allies insist on giving it a geopolitical orientation. They maintain that China can use the Gwadar port as a naval base in case of heightened tensions and clashes in the Indian Ocean. However, this argument is highly implausible due to several reasons. China is pursuing a policy of peaceful rise, making it unlikely to indulge in any international wars. Moreover, Pakistan’s navy also holds significant capabilities to secure and defend its maritime interests.

CPEC also provides opportunities for trade with African countries. The African region is an essential part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China seeks to grow its influence over different regions through the BRI project. The African region is a growing market and provides China with significant opportunities for trade and export of its products. Moreover, the African youth also provide China with a chance to access cheap labor for the growth of its industry. Africa is one of the richest regions in the world in mineral resources. Thus, CPEC provides a great opportunity for China, Pakistan, and the landlocked Central Asian region to trade with Africa and access its mineral resources and markets.

Therefore, CPEC provides a win-win opportunity for Pakistan, China, Africa, Central Asia, and the GCC countries. This project will bring prosperity to developing and under-developed countries, especially Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Western China. The GCC and Iran will see an increase in their energy exports to the north. Moreover, Gwadar Port will emerge on the world stage as an international port with immense significance.

 

Taut Bataut – is a researcher and writer that publishes on South Asian geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine  “New Eastern Outlook”

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