CPEC: Two steps forward

The government of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, PTI, is setting up shop in a climate of international isolation, economic challenges and financial instability exacerbated by depleting resources, corruption and security issues. There is a lot on their plate and more so to chew on.

The recent visit by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was an effort to reset relationship between the two countries. No promises were made. Needless to say that US government is weary of Pakistan’s relationship with Kabul and her cementing cooperation with Beijing.

PTI government plans not to waste any time. While Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visits Kabul Mid September and later United Nations, Prime Minister Khan is paying a 2-day call on Riyadh’s royals. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have communicated the desire for close ties and opportunities for trade investments with Islamabad.

The recent 3-day visit by Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Islamabad was about hearing the new Pakistani premier out. Yi pledged cooperation for mutual gains. However, on September 10th the meeting day was coloured by the news in an international newspaper about Pakistan’s apprehensions about CPEC projects and predicted possible roll-backs in the light of remarks by cabinet members.

The news said that Islamabad’s Advisor to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile and Production, Abdul Razak Dawood accused previous Sharif-Abbassi government of bad CPEC negotiations which were more advantageous towards the companies from Beijing in terms of tax-breaks and added that Islamabad would like to either put CPEC on hold or stretch the process to another five years.

The news hinted that Islamabad’s economic corridors were eyeing the situation in Kuala Lumpur where fear is being voiced regarding Beijing’s expensive initiatives that could force the national exchequer to bankruptcy.

When contacted Abdul Razak Dawood claimed that his comments were quoted out of context. The statement from China’s Islamabad Embassy also called the international news ill-intentioned based on misquoted information. The fact of the matter is that the two countries had decided to broaden the base of CPEC agreement; making sure that socio-economic prosperity, transparency, poverty alleviation, agricultural and industrial benefits were looked after. Also the cooperation will now include other countries to strengthen the cooperation further.

All said and done, it is no news that PTI should be anxious to deliver. In the recent past Pakistan has had little choice but to rely on traditional allies, i.e., Saudi Arabia and China. PTI has raised the bar on national expectations and all eyes are on them. Keeping that in mind, broadening CPEC agreement benefits both countries and will be serving more economic stakeholders in the country. Moreover, it would be prudent to start working on creating economic alliances regionally on the line of RCD. Pakistan is grateful to its traditional allies but its time Mr. Khan looks in the region and also westwards to find more dependable allies for Pakistan and its people.

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