Regional connectivity has become an increasingly significant phenomenon, especially after the initiation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). BRI is connecting Asia with African regions, and European countries and integrating the Middle East through various infrastructural projects and seaports like highways, motorways, and railroads. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is connecting South Asia with Central Asia, Russia, and, Gulf countries through Afghanistan, Iran, and Gawadar port. Considering the increasing significance of these projects and regional connectivity, we must overcome the prevailing challenges and adopt pragmatic and viable policies to fulfill the aim of regional connectivity.
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an economic project of China that was initiated in November by Chinese President “Xi Jinping.” In this agreement, it is decided that BRI will be built in three phases. This project consists of highways, motorways, railroads, seaports, and energy projects in various countries.
Through this project, the Malacca dilemma can be eased because China was importing 85% of its oil from the Strait of Malacca which is geographically insecure for China due to the presence of the U.S. in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. China is constructing all these projects to export its products to world markets and to import different goods from different countries. BRI aims to promote trade among different countries and enhance infrastructural connectivity.
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Regional Connectivity
BRI connects the regions through two routes: one through land and another through the sea.
1. Connecting Africa
Africa is a resourceful rich country where many resources like gold, diamond, copper, petroleum, and silver are present. World 40% of gold and 90% of Platinum and Chromium are present in the African continent. This region is relatively less developed than other regions. China has extended its BRI projects towards Africa and developing the region.
In 2018, during FOCAC Summit in Beijing, Africa, and China agreed to strengthen China-Africa cooperation under Belt and Road Platform. Most of the African regions have signed agreements under BRI and got fruitful results from this initiative, like in many countries, railways, roads, bridges, hospitals, airports, schools, and other infrastructural projects have been built under this initiative, and now people are getting the dividends. Under this project, China can export its products and import various other resources from African countries.
2. Connecting the Middle East
Middle Eastern countries are resourceful regions where oil and gas are present in abundance. Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are considered the world's top three oil producers. China is extending BRI toward the Middle East. China wants to import oil and gas from these countries and export its products. Recently, the meeting between Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Xi Jinping is to boost the BRI projects, particularly to import oil and gas from Saudi Arabia.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship project of BRI (One Belt One Road Initiative). Chinese President “Xi Jinping” has initiated this project in 2015. The length of this project is 3,218 kilometers. This Project is a US$62 billion worth corridor. In this Project, there are railways, roads, energy projects, and pipelines to transport gas and oil from Gwadar port in the south of Pakistan to Kashgar city in north-western China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
China has started this project to export its product throughout the world through CPEC, particularly Gawadar, and to import various products, particularly oil, and gas from different countries. CPEC due to its high economic and geopolitical importance, not only help to develop the less industrial region of west China but also become a game-changer for Pakistan's way to modernization. CPEC will be connecting China and Pakistan with different regions of the world through railroads, highways, and sea routes.
CPEC and Regional Connectivity
1. Connecting Central Asia
Central Asian regions are landlocked, and their trade occurs by passing through various countries. CPEC is providing passage to Central Asian countries towards the Indian Ocean. World 60% of natural resources are present in Central Asian regions. It is resourceful in oil, gas, copper, and iron. Central Asian regions want Chinese investment for the well-being of their economy and to revive their markets. Central Asian regions can access the Indian Ocean through CPEC and can export their goods and services to other parts of the world. China wants to import oil, gas, and other products through CPEC and to export its products as well, that's why the regional connectivity is increasingly significant.
2. Connecting Europe
Europe is a very significant region in this contemporary world. Europe manufactures vehicles, machinery, and inorganic chemicals. China can import these products at a low cost through CPEC and export its products like silk, tea, and porcelain to them. China is connecting Europe through CPEC. China has connected CPEC with the Pakistan-Iran-Türkiye Freight line. This project is initiated to connect Europe with China and CPEC.
Considering the significance of regional connectivity, China needs to overcome the prevailing challenges which are becoming a hurdle for regional connectivity, and Pakistan must collaborate in this regard.
- Pakistan must improve its security measures to safeguard CPEC.
- Pakistan needs to address the grievances of the Baloch people regarding the CPEC project.
- Political stability is the current need to further regional connectivity through CPEC.
- Pakistan should deal with TTP and other militant organizations, especially Baloch separatist organizations like BLA and BLF.
- Pakistan must start target-based military operations to combat militant organizations while keeping the safety of the people in priority.
- Pakistan should make CPEC beneficial to local people by giving them jobs, health facilities, electricity, and other basic necessities of life.
- Pakistan should give more security to Chinese engineers and workers for the sustainability of CPEC.
After the initiation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, regional connectivity has become increasingly significant. Countries integrating through various economic projects is a win-win situation for the region. Pakistan needs to overcome the prevailing challenges and adopt a pragmatic approach to boost this regional connectivity.
Picture Credit: Silk Road Briefing
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