CHINA WATCH [MARCH 21-27] – China ready for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Summary

China has said that it was ready to work with Pakistan to take forward CPEC to benefit the people of two countries. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the federal government agreed to work together for inclusion of more development projects in the CPEC. The Ministry of Water and Power informed the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC that National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) would be able to transmit 30,000 MW of electricity by the end of 2018. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States (US) Aizaz Ahmad Chaudry has said that Pakistan’s close ties with China and its efforts to boost relations with Russia will not have an adverse effect on its traditional partnership with the US. Pakistan will participate in the 12-party peace conference on Afghanistan scheduled to be held in Moscow on April 14. KP government has announced it will create a special force for security of CPEC. Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan has said that attempts to derail CPEC will be foiled.

China Ready for CPEC:

China’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson has said that China was ready to work with Pakistan to take forward CPEC to benefit the people of two countries.[i] The spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “CPEC is a new cooperation framework set up by Pakistan and China to pursue long-term development. It is also an important project of the belt and road initiative.” Still more importantly she rejected apprehensions that once the CPEC trade routes officially opened, Pakistan will be flooded with cheap Chinese products that might harm the local industries of the country.[ii] While there remains a big potential for CPEC to boost Pakistan’s development levels and indicators, such concerns are not unfounded. Pakistan already runs a massive trade deficit with China and if the government fails to adopt a preemptive economic policy vis-a-vis the post-CPEC trade, the conditions can get worse.

Centre, KP agree on CPEC projects:

KP and the federal government agreed to work together for inclusion of more development projects in the CPEC.[iii] Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal and KP Chief Minister decided to come up with final agreements on the Circular Railway Peshawar, Rashkai Industrial Zone and Gilgit-Chitral Road. They also discussed the projects facing issues and approved the revision and remodelling of some other projects. Differences between the Centre and KP regarding CPEC has long bedevilled the smooth implementation of the project. KP blames the central government for depriving the province by design of its due share in the multi-billion dollars project. Such a consensus can help remove one of the main stumbling-blocks to this venture.

30,000 MW Power:

The Ministry of Water and Power informed the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC that NTDC would be able to transmit 30,000 MW of electricity by the end of 2018.[iv] The committee was told that around 26,000 MW of electricity will be added to the national grid by the end of December 2017. With an electricity shortfall of more than 6,000 MW, Pakistan suffers from the problem of acute energy crisis. Taking this factor into consideration, the Chinese and Pakistani planners enlisted the construction of energy projects as top priority under the CPEC. Beyond all the optimism and government claims, many technical, legal and financial issues have recently bogged these energy projects.

No Zero-Sum Game:

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudry has said that Pakistan’s close ties with China and its efforts to boost relations with Russia will not have an adverse effect on its traditional partnership with the US.[v] Mr. Chaudry remarked that “close historic ties with China should not be seen as a zero-sum game for any country.” He added that Islamabad was Islamabad was looking forward for close ties Trump administration because of the shared goal of defeating Islamic State and and because of Pakistan’s strategic role as “a bridge” between the United States and China. At times when Pakistan’s relations with China and Russia are flourishing, Washington’s relations with Beijing and Moscow have been marked by skepticism and weariness. Hence, in balancing relations with all these three big powers, Islamabad has to – some extent – bear the brunt of major powers politics.

Moscow Peace Conference:

Pakistan will participate in the 12-party peace conference on Afghanistan scheduled to be held in Moscow on April 14.[vi] Among other participants are Afghanistan, Russia, China, Iran, India and several Central Asian states. While the US declined the invitation, attendance by the Taliban is not yet clear. Russia and China have been looking for effective strategies to counter the threat of IS emanating from Afghanistan and also finding a negotiated settlement to the country’s long drawn war. However, there are two big bottlenecks. First, the moots have so far produced no breakthrough beyond the table talks. Second, the US and the western countries have not shown serious interest in such talks.

Miscellaneous:

KP government has announced it will create a special force for security of CPEC.[vii] Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan has said that attempts to derail CPEC will be foiled.[viii]

This report is compiled and written by Abdur Rehman Shah, Research Associate at the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad.

[i]APP. (2017, March 25). China ready to take CPEC forward: spokesperson. Retrieved March 25, 2017, from https://www.dawn.com/news/1322683/china-ready-to-take-cpec-forward-spokesperson

[ii] China ready to take CPEC forward with Pakistan: spokesperson. (2017, March 25). Retrieved March 25, 2017, from https://tribune.com.pk/story/1365218/china-ready-take-cpec-forward-pakistan-spokesperson/

[iii] Kiani, K. (2017, March 25). Centre, KP agree to include more projects in CPEC. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from https://www.dawn.com/news/1322686/centre-kp-agree-to-include-more-projects-in-cpec

[iv] Yasin, Asim. (2017, March). 30,000MW power to come in system by 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/193987-30000MW-power-to-come-in-system-by-2018

[v] Iqbal, A. (2017, March 26). Pakistan’s ties with China not a zero-sum game, says envoy. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.dawn.com/news/1322880

[vi] Our Correspondent. (2017, March 24). Pakistan to attend 12-party Moscow peace moot. (2017, March 24). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://tribune.com.pk/story/1364719/pakistan-attend-afghanistan-peace-conference-moscow-fo/

[vii] Radio Pakistan. (2017, March 27). KP govt decides to constitute a special force for security of CPEC. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.radio.gov.pk/25-Mar-2017/kp-govt-decides-to-constitute-a-special-force-for-security-of-cpec

[viii] Staff Reporter. (2017, March 26). Attempts to derail CPEC to be foiled: Nisar. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://nation.com.pk/national/26-Mar-2017/attempts-to-derail-cpec-to-be-foiled-nisar

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