A significant and unexpected political change has taken place in Pakistan on 25 July. This time, it was Tehreek-e-Insaaf, which won the general elections to a great extent. Its success was phenomenal and attractive. For China, South Asia has been emerging as an important component of its policy and general elections could draw a great deal of time.
For security reasons and eliminating terrorism, Pakistan bends on China for all of its accounts. As a result, Chinese presence in Pakistan has been increased since 2011, and even in the latter years, it has been on the rise, particularly after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multi-billion project of over US$ 63 billion.
The project draws the attention of a majority of Pakistanis including the businessmen and analysts. The Pakistan Muslim League tried to cash a lot of credit of the CPEC for political purposes. The League put all of its baskets in the CPEC. This was a great source of its pro-China propagation. The project has emerged as a greatly benefiting the party over the past many years. However, the task of the project looks changed after 25 July elections, and the project would be seen from the perspective of the Tekreek-e-Insaaf.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said, “China welcomes the smooth completion of the general election in Pakistan and congratulates the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led by Mr Imran Khan for winning this election”. “We are willing to work together with the new Pakistani Government to push China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership to a new level”. Geng added. China is considering to put the CPEC on track. Yao Jin, Chinese Ambassador in Islamabad, met with the Chief of Tenreek-e-Insaaf at Bani Gala as Chinese have shown a keen interest in working with the PTI.
The meeting between the Chinese authorities revealed that they are willing to work with the new government in Pakistan and would put more emphasis on the early completion of the CPEC projects, especially infrastructure and energy projects. The PTI Government is likely to address the transparency element of the CPEC projects.
PTI fully realises the importance of the CPEC. Imran Khan often talks about Chinese development model in his speeches and how China lifted some poverty-stricken areas and the masses. Like PTI, China has been focussing on people-oriented development and providing millions of jobs to the local population.
As far as other areas of reforms are concerned, PTI would be assisting to bring improvements and to change the life pattern. There is no doubt that the PTI would abide by all agreements reached between China and PML (N) and to complete all projects undergoing.
Western Route is a priority, and the PTI Government would put all efforts to complete the projects despite some reservations they had on it. The PTI’s sit-in rally in Islamabad in 2014 gave a considerable loss to Government as Chinese President Xi Jinping had to cancel his Islamabad tour. For the PML (N) Government, it was a significant loss as Xi wanted to sign new agreements with Pakistan.
Recognising the importance of ties between Islamabad and Beijing, Imran Khan appreciated China’s poverty alleviation program and expressed the desire to learn from it to reduce the gap between rich and poor in Pakistan. The CPEC does not entertain any provincial basis, and many parties understand its importance.
Therefore, there is no fear that the PTI Government would ever try to interfere with the project or abandon any part of the project. The project is likely to have a positive impact on the economy of Pakistan in the coming years and results will be yield. The Chinese initiative of Belt and Road is a real changer of the global economy.
Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to building a Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is aimed at developing a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes and beyond. Within this concept, the CPEC is a mega project, and it is hard for any Government to scrape it for any reason. The PTI Government would have little reasons to abandon the project.
Therefore, it would be an ideal approach for the new PTI Government in Pakistan to continuously put forward the CPEC project rather than keep questioning its feasibility. Such an approach would help the party to achieve its goals more positively and quickly.
(The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.)