CPEC: Muttering the rumors
On September 19, 2018, it was an extra-ordinary high and a rare meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa in Beijing. Chinese President especially invited General Bajwa for the meeting to discuss the security issues and challenges, facing this region in general and China-Pakistan in particular. Besides, this meeting took place after some misperceptions were caused owing to a twisted report published by The Financial Time (International Economic Magazine). The factual position is neither Pakistan has ever thought of quitting this giant project, nor sideling it for an indefinite period. Indeed, such an option would be against the national interest of Pakistan. There is no doubt that, Pakistan is facing serious financial issues with respect to its financial crisis, payment of loan and managing its own budget deficits. In this regard, the new Government under PTI has presented a Mini Budget where the tax base has been widened with increase in taxes on some of facilities and the imports in particular.
While there have been taxes reforms in the Mini Budget, various domestic and international companies, working in Pakistan have also been asked to pay taxes as per the existing tax rules in Pakistan. This is for all without any discrimination or favour. There has been nothing against Chines companies in specific, as the Financial Time report misquoted Prime Minister’s advisor Mr Abdul Razzaq Dawood. Halting the CPEC for a year or so is not in the interest of Pakistan in particular; rather it will break the momentum, the project attained in last three years. Moreover, halting this project would not allow Pakistan to overcome its financial deficits, since the project is being funded by China in all respect.
Earlier, the Financial Time reported, that, Pakistan is planning to halt all the CPEC-related projects at least for a period of one year and most of the deals, which have given unlawful favours to Chinese companies need to be revisited and renewed under fresh agreements. The magazine also highlighted that, such a favour has caused disadvantage to Pakistani companies. Besides, it says, “The previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on CPEC-they didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly so they gave away a lot.” Contents of the report were rejected by Advisor, Mr Abdul Razzaq himself, who later met with Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan and clarified the essence of his interview.
During the meeting, President Xi Jinping, declared Pakistan as a “time-tested iron friend” to China and highly regarded the role of Pak Army in maintaining this strong and ever-lasting relationship. The reality is that, there has been changes in the civil governments in Pakistan, however, the institution of Armed Forces of Pakistan not only maintained a military linkage with PLA China, but built-up on diplomatic and political relationship and strengthened its strategic engagements with China with each passing day. Besides military to military contacts, Pakistan Army ensured its strategic engagements with political leadership of People’s Republic of China. Meeting of President Xi Jinping with General Bajwa is an indication of such an in-depth engagement. General Bajwa greatly appreciated President Xi for indefatigable Chinese support and said “While we work for peace we need to stay strong to thwart designs of all inimical forces challenging our resolve and we greatly value Chinese support in this regard”.
Indeed, there are many unfriendly forces operating against CPEC, ever since it was conceived in 2013. These forces are all out to create misperceptions between Pakistan and China. Apart from the Financial Time report, Michael Kugelman, a deputy director at Wilson Centre, (Asia Program), opined that, “A decision to slow down the CPEC process would be a major change from the previous government’s policy.” Indeed, these are all rumours, being spread by enemies of this project. Pakistan is determine to complete CPEC under any circumstances, irrespective of any change in Government, indeed, it is an agreement between two states, thus political change would not affect it. Moreover, PTI Government has a forward looking agenda, how can it go away from this project of national interest. Rather, Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited Saudi Arabia to become one of the partners of CPEC, which mean extension of this project to Middle East.
In fact, the nature of China-Pakistan relationship is such that, they cannot afford any misgiving like the Financial Time. It was in the same context that, Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi, made a three day tour of Pakistan, after this report. The visit of Mr Wang Yi, had two perspectives; one, it was immediately after the visit of US Secretary of State, thereby demonstrating a strong Chinese resolve with Pakistan, in the wake of an uneasy relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Indeed, it was a reiteration of Beijing for its all-weather friendship with Pakistan. Two, dispelling the rumours over CPEC, a unique project of strategic communication and economic prosperity between two friendly nations.
Indeed, for Pakistan, CPEC will open new avenues of socio-economic development besides linking the dormant areas with major cities, allowing an all-inclusive opportunity to everyone in Pakistan. For China, the successful completion of CPEC will enable development of its under developed western region with shortest possible access to Indian Ocean.
There cannot be two opinions about the completion of CPEC, it has to be completed and operationalised at all cost and in the given time frame. The smaller issues over the project, arising from time to time can be debated and addressed bilaterally between Pakistan and China, as indicated by Chinese Foreign Minister, during his tour to Pakistan. Therefore, let’s move forward, dispelling the misperceptions and rumours, spread by inimical forces.