Investment from multiple sources good for Pakistan
Published: Feb 21, 2018 10:58 PM

Pakistan-based newspaper The Express Tribune reported Sunday that Pakistan, under Chinese pressure, had turned down a cheaper loan offer from Japan for infrastructure projects that are part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). According to the report, Pakistan earlier also refused a Japanese offer to invest in a tunnel program under the CPEC as "China resisted the move."

The report, sourcing an unnamed Pakistani official, is unconvincing. The economic corridor is not a bilateral project, but an open initiative. China has repeatedly emphasized that it invites and welcomes more countries to join in. Under the CPEC, China and Qatar have jointly developed the Port Qasim plant, a coal-fired power plant at Port Qasim in Karachi. 

The CPEC, a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, is aimed at enhancing interconnectivity between China and Pakistan and promoting common development. China will invest a total amount of $62 billion in Pakistan for power plants, roads and railroad construction to give its infrastructure a much-needed upgrade as it seeks to emerge from years of political instability.

The mega project is mainly funded by China at present. But China has encouraged Pakistan to attract foreign investment from multiple sources. There are worries within Pakistan that the CPEC will make the country economically too dependent on China. If Chinese and foreign enterprises can cooperate on the project, that will help alleviate the concerns.   

However, Western countries have continued to hype China's strategic intentions behind the CPEC and are hesitant to join in the project as they are concerned about ethnic, religious and regional conflicts, as well as terror risks in Pakistan. They are not excluded from the CPEC by China and Pakistan, but by themselves. 

China is facing the same threats as its Western counterparts when investing in Pakistan, but China has not flinched. The volatile Balochistan Province that the economic corridor passes through poses numerous security and political threats. It is reported that China has held talks with local tribal separatists to persuade them to lay down their weapons in exchange for regional economic benefits. China is trying hard to explore new ways to promote cooperation, improve the investment environment, and curb the spread of religious extremism through economic development. This will not only benefit Pakistan, but also other foreign investors.

All in all, China's investment in the CPEC actually takes into consideration the all-round development of the region, including anti-terrorism. It will also provide basic infrastructural facilities to other foreign investors and encourage them to invest in Pakistan. Reports that Pakistan turned down investments from third countries under China's pressure is empty rhetoric.

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