The need for regional cooperation through CPEC and OBOR

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By Saddam Hussein

“Competition is the law of jungle, but cooperation is the law of civilization”. – Peter Kropotkin’s

It is time that economic concept of perfect competition is reconsidered and replaced with perfect cooperation in the wake of contemporary dynamics. The regional connectivity is vital for the sustainable economic growth in the 21st century. Therefore, regional actors need to collaborate instead of counter-balancing or strategic competition for their shared security and economic prosperity. Without the joint cooperation or economic interdependence, sustainable progress in South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, and Euro Asia is unmanageable.

Recognising the significance of the of the regional connectivity for practicable economic growth, the Chinese leadership has been striving to cultivate an economic zone having two facets i.e. the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk route. Beijing has embarked on key initiatives such as ‘One Belt One Road’. With the establishment of these roads, the direct transfer of goods from east to west on promising terms will be possible. Since 2013, Beijing has been involved in materialising its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative to connect inter-continental infrastructures between Europe, Africa and Asia. The prime objective of OBOR is to bring Asian nations closer and to create new entrees with European and African states. Perhaps, the OBOR project is one of the most productive economic projects since industrial revolution imbued with universal physiognomies.

The global community alike is conscious about the potential of OBOR that is to establish connection among 65 countries across three continents with China which would influence the lives of 4.4 billion people with the total gross domestic product of US 2 trillion dollar. The connectivity will be provided through the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor; the New Eurasian Land Bridge Corridor; the China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor; the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; Bangladesh-China-Myanmar-India Corridor; and China-Indo-China Peninsula Corridor. Once the vision is realised, indeed it will boost the global trade, therefore 29 heads of state and government, besides delegates’ from around 130 countries participated in Belt and Road Summit held in Beijing on May 14-15, 2017.

Russian Federation backs OBOR and also communicated its interest to join it. On May 15, 2017 President Putin stated that everything that is being proposed fits the trend of modern development. It is extremely necessary and is high in demand. Hence, Russia not only supports the OBOR but will vigorously take part in its realisation with all other interested countries.

The announcement of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of Chinese President Vision of OBOR has brought Pakistan on the center stage of Euro-Asian economic connectivity. Undeniably, CPEC has augmented Pakistan’s fundamental role in the connecting West, Asia, Central Asia and South Asia. The CPEC has a potential to revolutionise the regional cooperation on socio-economic development. It would also boost tourism in the region. Although, Pakistan and China would be the main beneficiaries of CPEC project, yet other regional actors would equally benef from the operationalisation of the project.

Geographically speaking, Pakistan is capable in facilitating the Central, West and the South Asian nations to benefit from OBOR through CPEC. Pakistan is determined to use its strategic position positively in the emerging regional connectivity. Although Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi openly opposed CPEC, Pakistani and Chinese leadership is determined to engage the South Asian states including India for the prosperity of entire region.

The economic connectivity would undoubtedly help in swapping the animosity with the unfriendly neighbours. Islamabad is encouraging the neighbouring states to invest in CPEC projects. Definitely, the neighbouring states’ investment enriches the significance of the project but it also has fruitful impact on investors’ economies. It is a catalytic project that will help us form a conglomerate for geo-economic interest of the regional countries. The corridor also represents Pakistan’s and China’s commitment to fashion a win win partnership that threaten none and benefit all. Precisely, CPEC would have dividends for the entire region.

The regional organisations such as South Asian Regional Association for Cooperation (SAARC) and Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) have the primary objective to stimulate trade amongst the member countries. Most of the member countries are underdeveloped and also face socio-economic challenges. Possibly, without economic stability the political stability is a wishful thinking.

These nations need mutual cooperation for the sake of their socio-economic uplift. CPEC would have very positive results for such organisations. One of the primary objectives of ECO is the development of transport, communication and infrastructure linking the member states with each other and with the outside world. Notably, out of ten ECO member states, seven are landlocked. The operationalisation of CPEC routes would provide shortest route to sea for at least six member states of ECO. In addition, CPEC would also facilitate the Eurasian trade. CPEC seems to greatly enhance ECO-wide connectivity in terms of transport, transit, telecommunications, cyber and movement of all forms of energy goods.

Keeping in view all the above benefits of OBOR and CPEC, it is imperative that these projects must not be politicised. In fact, contemporary politics should come into effect i.e politics of connectivity, cooperation and inter-dependence. The Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin’s quote would suffice here which says, “Competition is the law of jungle, but cooperation is the law of civilization”.

Saddam Hussein is a Research Fellow at Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, while pursuing his MPhil. in Public Policy from School of Public Policy, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad.

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