By Irfan Ali
The recent visit of China’s President Xi Jingping to Pakistan came with a commitment of investment worth $ 46 billion in various projects. Putting the figures into perspective it is thrice the amount of the total influx of foreign investment into Pakistan’s economy since 2008 and roughly near one fifth of country’s national income which is around $ 250 billion.
Analysts consider $ 46 billion of Chinese money in Pakistan as a potential game changer in the coming 10-15 years and if spend prudently would pave Pakistan to stand among the Asian tigers.
The largest Chunk of the Chinese money will go to construct China-Pakistan economic corridor, which connects Chinese Xinjiang Province to Gawadar port in the Arabian Sea through Gilgit-Baltistan, KPK and Punjab. The corridor includes extension of Karakorum Highway (KKH), construction of railway track, and optic fiber connection.
There is no free lunch in international politics and Chinese munificence to Pakistan is actually part of Chinese “one belt one road project.” The land route is expected to be an important trade link for Chinese goods to access, African, Middles East and European markets, thus boosting china’s soft power across the region.
Nothing in this realist world order, especially relations among the nations aren’t based on emotions or brotherhood; everything is variable except neighborhood which is constant. Same is true in case of Sino-Pak relations, there is no doubt China has proved to a good friend, but rhetoric like all weather friendship, Iron-brother are somewhat unrealistic, immature and hyperbolic wordings used by Pakistani side.
China-Pakistan relation are asymmetric in nature, on one side there is the second largest economy of the world and on the other side, Pakistan is a poor, weak and terror wretched country. Still Sino-Pak relations are time tested, higher than Himalayas and deeper than oceans. China has stand behind Pakistan in its war against India in 1965 and 1972. China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir issue. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. United States is struggling to counter rising influence of china through India and China want Pakistan to keep India busy in the region to divert its attention. So this complex chess board in Asia helps in convergence of Sino-Pak interests in number of fronts.
The bilateral relations between the two countries overlap in economic and political dominions. Cultural, people to people, and intellectual relations are the areas which need attention to be paid from both sides. Both sides need cultural exchange program for youth, scholarships, exposure visits, joint research, exchange of scholars and other professionals exchange would be beneficial in future.
The real corridor of China-Pakistan economic corridor is Gilgit-Baltistan. But, the region and its leadership, probably, are intentional kept aloof from the current debates and decision makings on the corridor. PML-(n) has already done a lot of damage to GB by amending “Gilgit-Baltistan self governance order, 2009” for the parties own benefits. Earlier Federal Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Minister Pervez Rasheed said that the jurisdiction of the constitution of Pakistan does not extend to Gilgit-Baltistan.
It is necessary to mention here that, all the negative externalities of the corridor would be borne by nascent Gilgit-Baltistan and rest of the other provinces will enjoy the economic and positive outcomes.
Starting with the air, water and noise pollution, the heavy traffic flow through KKH after completion of the project would alter the ambient quality of air in Gilgit-Baltistan, as the heavy traffic would release high toxic gases in the air. Again the traffic flow would also change the normal decibels of noise in environment to dangerous levels, causing irritation to the senior citizens and heart patients and other related issues.
The climate change in the region would be an obvious phenomenon due to emission of toxic gases by heavy traffic flow. Slow temperature rise and accumulation of gases in air will lead to melt the world largest reservoirs of fresh water glaciers. Researches have revealed that, climate change coupled with temperature rise would dry up the glaciers in Karakorum and Himalayan region within a century. But the current hassle in the province will definitely accelerate receding of glaciers, ringing an arming bell for water security in the region and beyond.
Last but not least, the PML-(n) government is planning to shift the current Sust dry port (GB) to Havelian. Sust dry port in Gilgit-Baltistan has created thousands of jobs and business activities, like Shops, hotels, restaurants, teashops, workshops, labors for uploading and downloading for the indigenous people. The most important thing is, GB would lose an important portion of its revenue pie, as custom levied on imported merchandise from China will not go to GB’s revenue.
Such Clandestine maneuverings by PML-(n) government is only adding insult to the injuries of already neglected and marginalized People of GB. This is high time for PML-(n) to adopt more inclusive policies as election for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) are due on 5th June, 2015.
Leaving the habit and parochial mentality of taking covert and unilateral decision, GB’s leadership must be taken on board on every decision making related to China-Pakistan Economic corridor. New Project Must be launched in consultation with national vocational and technical training commission (NAVTTC), National institute of Science and technology (NISTE) to immediately train young generation in various trades relevant and required for economic corridor related professions. Lest the situation goes out of control and people rise up for their right, the government must take appropriate steps to compensate the people of Gilgit Baltistan.
You can email the contributor at Irfanali14@gmail.com