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HomeGeopolitical CompassSouth & Southeast AsiaPakistan needs to reframe its regional connectivity push

Pakistan needs to reframe its regional connectivity push

Author: Arif Rafiq

Affiliation:  Middle East Institute

Organization/Publisher: Middle East Institute

Date/Place: May 25, 2021/USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1350


Keywords: Pakistan, China, US, BRI, CPEC, Regional Connectivity



The military drawdown from war-torn Afghanistan exacerbates Washington’s fears of China’s increasing influence across the region. Pakistan’s place in China’s mounting investments through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) stands among the top through the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This article identifies the multiple parties invested in Pakistan infrastructure as part of its regional connectivity, including the China, US, Japan, UK, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Pakistan’s own financial resources. It reveals an interesting design: China’s road investments are focused on the most populated areas along Pakistan’s eastern corridor – the areas with “less financial and security risk.” Beijing has shown no interest in investing along the country’s western border along the conflict-hit Afghanistan. The author argues that for Pakistan to become a hub of regional connectivity, it needs to reframe its investments outlook. With investments coming from multiple sources, the author says: “a more prudent approach for Pakistan is to rebrand itself as an Asian gateway — with CPEC as a constituent element of Islamabad’s national transport and regional connectivity strategies.” He adds that imposing the CPEC brand on all trans-Pakistan transit trade “creates the false impression that the use of Pakistan’s infrastructure involves joining a Chinese-led geo-economic order.” With the backdrop of several other international investors promoting Pakistan as a trade corridor, the author says bringing CPEC to the forefront “misrepresents Beijing’s commitments toward developing Pakistan as a transit hub.” The author links this re-imagining of Pakistan as a geo-economic-focused nation to the statement of the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa when he said that “viewing Pakistan exclusively through the prism of CPEC is misleading.” Pakistan has invited international investors to join the CPEC and sidestep the criticism that Pakistan is allegedly drowning in Chinese debt – the normal critique of Western capitals and their allies in the region (including India) against the BRI.


By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-Resident Research Associate        



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