The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was supposed to be that umbilical cord that connected China and Pakistan. CPEC was supposed to be a testament to the eternal, all-weather friendship between Islamabad and Beijing. It was supposed to embody the alliance between China and Pakistan. For the Islamic nation, CPEC was supposed to alleviate the woes of an economy going down the drain. For China, CPEC was supposed to be an opening into the Arabian Sea and subsequent oceans around the world. It was supposed to provide a seamless path for Western China to access the Gwadar port.
CPEC Could be Axed
But CPEC now stares at the prospect of being made a relic of the past, even before it becomes operational. Amid the growing economic woes and international isolation forcing over-reliance on China, Pakistani officials are ready to scrap the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), if the US could offer a similar deal.
Asia Times quoted Pakistani authorities who remain predisposed to the West, as having offered to scrap or sideline the CPEC if Washington could offer similar financial assistance to the Islamic nation.
In April 2015, China and Pakistan signed an agreement to officially kickstart the CPEC phase of BRI in both countries. Initially, the project was worth $46 billion, roughly 20 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP. However, over a period of six years, its total cost had increased to nearly $62 billion, putting its existence in jeopardy.
United States’ Flying Kiss
It is very likely that the United States has, in a murmured tone, informed Pakistan of its keenness to help Islamabad with infrastructure development. Even if Washington does not unleash a CPEC-like project in Pakistan, what Islamabad desperately needs right now is a bailout. It needs a constant flow of billions of dollars to keep its economy afloat, and no country other than the United States has the resources to do so.
Therefore, Pakistan has made it known to Washington that it will dump China for good, if need be.
Last year, Khalid Mansoor, the chief of China Pakistan economic corridor had accused US and India of sabotaging CPEC. Addressing the CPEC Summit at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Khalid said, “From the point of view of the emerging geostrategic situation, one thing is clear: the United States supported by India is inimical to CPEC. It will not let it succeed. That’s where we have to take a position.”
Pakistan is sending the USA the feelers. It wants Washington to know that it can readily replace China by bailing the Pakistani economy out.
A Disaster in the Making for China?
China finds itself in an economic mess of sorts. As such, Pakistan is not really sure how far and to what lengths China will go to help it. Islamabad desperately needs saving, and if that means dumping the communist nation – Islamabad will do it.
Losing Pakistan will be nothing short of a disaster for China. The Communist nation’s strategy to rebuild the ancient Silk Route will take a massive hit, and the entry of the USA back to the driving seat in Islamabad will spill water over Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions in South Asia.
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What remains to be seen now is whether the United States actually comes to Pakistan’s rescue and provides an alternative to CPEC. If it does, China’s South Asian tour will be over. If it does not – strains have already developed in ties between China and Pakistan.
But do you know what is also possible? China having finally pulled the plug on CPEC, and Pakistan engaging in a farcical show to win over the United States.