By: Dr Said Alam Mahsud
The Kashghar-Gwadar Economic Corridor, also termed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, is a mega project of USD 46 billion between Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People Republic of China, proposed and developed over the early part of the decade between the two countries. The CPEC Secretariat was officially inaugurated in August 2013 paving way for signing of the signing of the CPEC project during President Xi Jinping Islamabad visit in April 2015.
The CPEC is not a solely transportation project, and as evident from the stream of information coming from the two countries, the project is a multi-faceted process aiming to develop, along its route, multiple energy and hydropower plants, promoting and enhancing Gwadar Port, building transport infrastructure, widening industrial cooperation, and intelligence sharing and more.
The CPEC was Chinies dream to reach to warm water in a much short route, and get connection with Central Asia and Arabian Gulf, and bring prosperity and economic development to its much deprived Western region.
During President Asif Ali Zardari’s presidency when the project first initiated, there was only one, and the shortest route proposed for the project which went through khyber Pakhtunkhwa . However, when Prime Minister Nawaz sharif took over the office, the CPEC route was changed towards Punjab significantly, and unfavourably to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the so called terms of alignments were introduced. The original, and potentially abandoned route is now called Western route.
The Western route is nearest to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries ,while Eastern route is closest to India. It is because of the Western route that it was called Cluster Corridor or the Agglomeration Corridor. The Chinese were right in terming it so, because corridors would have the essential links from Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries ,even Iran .Hence CPEC would have been the cluster.
It was because of this route that 3 billion people were supposed to be benefited, and 25% business of the word was supposed to be traded on this route. The Eastern route will not have these advantages.
The Western route starts in Kashghar and passes through Khunjrab in China, and Khybar pukhtunkhwa, Burhan, Fateh jang, Mian Wali, Dera Ismail Khan, Drazinda, Zhob, Qila Saifullah, Quetta, Basima, Punjgor to Gwadar.
From this route initially these connections were marked to Afghanistan-Central Asia:
1) Peshawar – Landikotal – Afghanistan – Central Asia
2) Bannu – Miram shah – Gulam khan – Afghanistan – Central Asia
3) Ramak – Gomal zam – Wana – Shakai – Afghanistan – Central Asia
4) Qila Saifullah – Afghanistan – Central Asia
5) Quetta – Chaman – Spin boldaak – Central asia
If the Western route is changed to the Eastern, links to and through Afghanistan are not only deleted, the future pipelines and corridors will also be diverted to CPEC in area of Gilgit. Moreover, it was initially thought that CPEC will bring political stability in the region, and improve the tense relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Abandoning the Western route will make such a gain from CPEC very difficult. Needless to say that this will not make the prospect of improved relations between the two countries any better.