Published : 7 September 2016
As projects under the CPEC gather pace, a broader synopsis of the long-term plan for the Corridor was unveiled at a summit held on August 29. This was coupled with caution from the Chinese who highlighted the risks to smooth implementation of the partnership framework. Much of the talk about CPEC projects has focused on the general lack of know-how on finances, public-private partnerships and the extent of the benefit to both China and Pakistan, weighing them against each other. Discussions have also revolved around the areas in Pakistan that would accrue advantage, with every government official praising the CPEC as a ‘game changer’ and nothing less. But at the same time there has been a general lack of clarity on some of the broader features of the projects, with finances being a major source of concern for a heavily-in-debt Pakistan.
At such a time, the CPEC Summit, meant to promote awareness and hold discussions on how to take the project forward, was a much-needed one. Pakistan’s concerns lies in contributions coming from the provinces and meeting financing needs of the investment-heavy CPEC projects. Timing will prove to be the key here and stakeholders are aware of it. China’s concerns, on the other hand, stem from a general lack of stability within Pakistan, accentuated by its political and security situation. Reports have so far highlighted slow progress in some of the CPEC projects, especially those that fall within provincial domains, and a Pakistani official pointed out the need to accelerate them. Lack of communication among stakeholders also came up and there was an understanding that the issue needed to be addressed. The CPEC may very well be a game changer, but it will need active participation to truly achieve its intended benefits. Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and the situation in Balochistan could very well be important issues that would need to be addressed. A senior Chinese official pointed out land acquisition issues while another said that ethnic differences could be a cause of concern if left unheeded. The CPEC will be a test on multiple fronts for Pakistan, accentuating and exposing all the major problems afflicting the country. Only time will tell if we’ll be able to overcome these.