By Farman Nawaz (The Frontier Post)
It is said that Sino-Pak economic corridor likely to stabilize the region.
Before discussing reservations about one aspect of this economic corridor it would be better to draw attention to the first requisite of some other famous economic corridors and pipelines of the world.
Afghanistan and India had started trade few years back and used the shortest trade route of Wagah border using Pakistani roads. It was Pakistan inflexibility that India and Afghanistan had to think about alternate route through Iran. That proposed route connects Iran’s Chabahar port with Kandla in Gujarat. From north Iranian border Delaram–Zaranj Highway was planned to be used for this trade. It was the shorted possible way from Iran to Afghanistan. Almost the same route was suggested as alternate route for NATO supply. Similarly the route discussed for the TAPI project is also the possible shortest distance from Turkmenistan to India. Its maps are available on internet. In the same way the outline of six central Asia regional economic cooperation corridors also reveals that shortest routes are selected for these roads and pipelines. China Turkmenistan pipeline is also a straight route with a little bend in it. The Silk route even today used by Central Asian countries to reach Europe via Turkey is the possible shortest route.
But now when we come to the highly thought of Sino-Pakistan economic corridor then it tells a strange story about the proposed route. It starts from Kashgar and ends at Gawadar. The 5000 years ancient route from China to Gawadar passes through KPK and central Baluchistan. But BBC reports reveals that this new route has several sharp bends when it enters Pakistan. It is not the shortest route from China to Gawadar. KPK is almost totally ignored in these trade routes which will cause economic activities in this region. Similarly it just uses the bank of Arabian Sea when it enters Baluchistan from Sindh.
The war on terror is fought on the soil of KPK but when it comes to economic uplift then this deserted province is totally put on one side. It is not known who are sitting at the policy making level in Pakistan and China but the fact is that the heart of people of this province will be broken to see the bended route towards Punjab and Sind. The whole of Punjab is covered and Sindh has also got its share. The deserted Baluchistan whose sea port is the end of this corridor is also ignored.
It seems that China is not using this corridor to use Gawadar port but to sell its items in the entire Punjab and Sind and to collect different merchandise from Punjab and Sind. The bended route and its illogical length are not rational. One reason could be the law and order situation of KPK and Baluchistan but it must be kept in mind that this law and order situation can be created in Punjab and Sind too. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in China then a blast at Lahore could be an indication for him that this corridor can be hindered any time. If NATO supply containers are not safe then how can the vehicles of China travel safely to Kashgar.
Here it will be better to give an example of investment that I studied during my research thesis on China at master’s level. Once investors of Taiwan during 90’s offered China to invest on the mainland. China agreed to this offer putting a condition that this invested will be utilized in low developed areas of China. Today again China is working on the same principle and this time the area attached to Pakistan which is not as developed as the rest of China is targeted to be benefited from this corridor. The same corridor is expected to be used by Russia and other central Asian countries and even India.
But the most deserted region of this area is Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa which is totally ignored in this project. How can be this region stabilized if US is not stopping drone attacks and China is escaping to invest in this region. A lot of pity for the dwellers of this region who have decreasing opportunities of economic activities, increasing terrorists attacks, faced by controversial drone attacks, fears of being kicked out from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and exposed to fundamentalism and extremism.
The sharp bend in this route towards Punjab is a denial of justice with this war torn land. Still this project is not finalized and an alternate route can be passed through this region connecting the Southern districts of KPK with Gawadar. This corridor can change the destiny of this deserted land. It is binding on the ambassador of China in Pakistan and the people sitting at policy level in Pakistan to inform the respective higher authorities to think again about the possibility of amendments in this route.