China and Pakistan inaugurated relations with one another in 1951 and since then, the elements necessary for a sustainable all-weather partnership have firmly taken root. Pakistan and China’s relations have always been based on neighbourly respect, economic exchange, technological cooperation, common security goals and enlightened cultural exchange.
Today, the partnership has entered a new era due to mutual participation in the Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Pakistan is home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project that over the medium and long term will revitalise and then transform the foundations of the Pakistani economy. CPEC also provides China with an efficient, secure and ultra-modern infrastructure for vital east-west trading routes. CPEC can consequently be thought of as a central artery in the global Pacific to Mediterranean trading routes that converge at the ever growing CPEC port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
After a decades long battle against terror, today’s Pakistan looks to create new inroads of prosperity through interconnectivity to multiple trading partners, including its valued Chinese partner. CPEC will not only make this possible but in the process will revitalise domestic industry, spur domestic innovation, create thousands of jobs, incentivise growing trade with multiple partners and lay the foundations for a major future tourist sector in Gwadar and beyond.
In order to best achieve this, securing CPEC is as important as successfully constructing all CPEC related infrastructure. Here too, Pakistan stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its Chinese partner. Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor who serves as the director of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) recently held an on-camera dialogue with Chinese officials and journalists about Pakistan’s commitment to security and peace in and around CPEC projects.
Major General Ghafoor explained that Pakistan’s struggle with terrorism that began shortly after the turn of the 21st century has been largely won by the Pakistani authorities, thus creating a safe working and living environment for Pakistanis, foreign investors and foreign workers. Ghafoor further stated that while small elements of lawlessness exist, the Army and intelligence agencies have a firm grip on neutralising the remnants of banditry and violence as this is recognised by the military in Pakistan as a key element of assuring the country’s long term success on a sustainable basis.
Specifically, Ghafoor revealed that the Pakistani Army has raised a division sized force whose sole role is to safeguard CPEC related projects as well as the Chinese workers and investors who are in Pakistan to help expand CPEC. He then stated that the Pakistani Army plans to raise a second division sized force to bolster security even further.
Ghafoor acknowledged that Chinese investment into Pakistan has played a vital role in fighting terrorism. The bourgeoning economic opportunities that have arisen because of CPEC and related investment initiatives have helped to defeat one of the key elements of extremism – the exploitation of the young by forces of wickedness. Thanks to CPEC, instead of being lured into extremism at the hands of regional provocateurs, Pakistanis in Gwadar’s province of Balochistan in particular are looking with optimism to CPEC while many have already found life changing employment opportunities as a result of China’s investment.
One of the key takeaways from Ghafoor’s statements is that Gwadar is like a young child that can grow to be a productive adult so long as it is nourished by Chinese investment, innovation and economic experience on the one hand and protected, strengthened and shielded from material threats by Pakistan’s Army and intelligence on the other.
This cooperative endeavour holds the potential not only to expand upon existing win-win developments but more importantly, it can permanently transform the economic and developmental fortunes of Pakistan which over the coming years looks to become one of the major trading centres in the world because of CPEC and the growth that CPEC is already helping to foster.
Pakistan’s authorities have played a vital role in protecting the people and ushering in a new era where the state’s resources are now well placed to help expand an economy that contracted during the worst periods of the struggle against terrorism.
It is deeply important that as Ghafoor’s statements make clear, Pakistan’s Army understands the vital importance of CPEC. CPEC represents Pakistan’s road towards a better economic future while it simultaneously represents the evolution of the all-weather friendship that has seen Chinese and Pakistani friendship consistently persevere irrespective of other global trends.