Pak-US relations: the CPEC aspect

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 15.10.17

Hardly had anyone remembered how to commit a foreign policy blunder when the US
reminded the Asia region of US’ ability to do so. The tyranny enacted by the blunder is that
it was meant to touching a raw nerve of both Pakistan and China.

On October 6, US Defence Secretary James Mattis appeared before the Senate Armed
Services Committee and briefed the legislators on the latest in the Pak-Afghan region by
mentioning two main points. First, the US opposed the One Belt, One Road policy in
principle because in a globalized world, there were many belts and many roads, and no one
nation should put itself into a position of dictating any such policy. Second, the US opposed
the one (One Belt, One Road) going through Pakistan also because it passed through a
disputed territory.

Interestingly, Secretary Mattis was supposed to apprise the US legislators of the latest in
the Pak-Afghan region. However, it is not yet known what the relationship is between the
One Belt, One Road policy of China and the Afghanistan theatre or the Pak-Afghan region.
China’s One belt, One road’ or the OBOR initiative can be divided into two halves. The belt
part (or the ‘new Silk Road’) is China’s dream to revive the ancient trade routes between
China and its western neighbours in South Asia and Central Asia to Europe. The road part
is China’s vision to develop new trade routes in the seas around China, roughly along the
routes that had once been sailed by the great admiral, Zheng He, during the Ming dynasty.
The objective of the OBOR initiative – a combination of an overland belt and a maritime
road – is to connect China with Asia, Africa and Europe through infrastructure
developments including constructing highways, railways, pipeline, ports and power grids.
Against this background, Secretary Mattis flayed both road and sea trade routes of China
in the pretext of stating on the latest in the Pak-Afghan region.

Another interesting point is that only the belt part of the OBOR called the China Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC) is passing through Pakistan and not through the Pak-Afghan
region. The CPEC is not a recent development to get stunned and shocked. Instead, the
change of mind by the US towards the Asia region under the leadership of US President
Donald Trump is the recent development.

The point is not that whether or not the US has criticized the CPEC aspect of the OBOR at
the behest of India, the point is that the US has made a deliberate attempt to strain its
relations with both Pakistan and China in one go. The US is overlooking the fact that the
services of Zbigniew Brzezinski are no more available, as he passed away in May this year.
It was Brzezinski, the polish-born Professor of International Relations and former National
Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) , that helped the US normalize
its relations with the People’s Republic of China in (January) 1979. This relationship
facilitated the US to contain and neutralize the threat of communist expansion coming from
the former USSR in Asia when the latter entered Afghanistan (1979-1989).

In his book,
Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the eve of the 21st Century, published in
1993, Brzezinski predicted that as the technology-induced acceleration of communication
was distancing the contemporary history away from the past, more likely than Russia, China
would assume a leadership role on the world stage. Later on, Brzezinski also propounded
the idea that the US alone could not solve global problems. Instead, the US should
encourage China to share its burden. In April 2017, Brzezinski spoke to a Russian
newspaper (i.e. Gazeta.Ru) in these words: “China is considerably more important than
Russia right now, but if American and China cooperate, Russia has absolutely no choice
but to join. That would in America’s interest, firstly, but it would also be beneficial to Russia
in the long run.” Today, after rejected by Europe, Russia has mended its fences with China.

Kevin P. Gallagher writes in his book,
The China Triangle: Latin America’s China Boom and
the Fate of the Washington Consensus
, published in 2016, that China’s new development
banks have arisen from at least two motivations. First, China has accumulated an
enormous store of wealth and savings that it seeks to diversify by making big investments
across the world. Second, China feels slighted by the West for not being given a greater
role in the Bretton Wood institutions such as World Bank (WB) and International Monetary
Fund (IMF). In 2010, the IMF passed significant reforms that would have given China and
other emerging economies a greater say, but those reforms were stalled in the US
Congress. Since China wasn’t allowed to enter into existing institutions, it has begun to
create its own. These institutions now have levels of capital at their disposal more than that
of the Western-backed development bank. For instance, the World Bank holds just over
200 billion dollars in capital and has just over 500 billion dollars in assets, whereas the
China Development Bank (CDB) holds 100 billion dollars in capital, and has over 1 trillion
dollars in assets. Related to OBOR initiative, China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged 124
billion dollars. It is expected that the plan would funnel investment of 502 billion dollars into
62 countries over next five years.

It is known that Kashmir is a disputed territory and similarly there are other disputed
territories traversed by the OBOR initiative. Should there be no development? Should
people populating underdeveloped areas remain deprived and impoverished? The point is
simple: about 62 countries perceive now progress and economic stakes embedded in the
OBOR. Is the US ready to invite the ire of these countries? An attached question is this:
What act of munificence alternative to the OBOR the US is ready to offer?

In short, there were already voices raised inside Pakistan in favour of the US and, in order
to bring Pakistan under pressure, there was no need to criticize the CPEC on which
Pakistanis had already forged a consensus. Such criticism is bound to be

Back to columns in 2017