Paper co-authored by Hamzah Rifaat & Tridivesh Singh Maini on "The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor" - Stimson

January 01, 2017 | Hamzah Rifaat & Tridivesh Singh Maini

In April 2015, Chinese President Xi Jingping visited Islamabad to inaugurate the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $46 billion investment in Pakistan’s energy and transportation sectors. As part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, CPEC is designed to promote regional connectivity among Pakistan, China, and Eurasia.1 CPEC is bound to have geopolitical implications for Pakistan and the broader region, especially given the scale of the proposed investments and its connection to OBOR. 2 For Pakistan, this corridor is viewed as a symbol of the indomitable relationship it shares with China.

The bilateral relationship between both states is characterized by a high degree of mutual cooperation and convergence of strategic interests. Hence, it could improve Pakistan’s energy starved economy and the country’s internal stability—if the projects materialize as envisioned. Yet, at the same time, Pakistan’s geographical proximity to Afghanistan and constant hostilities with India require a geopolitical assessment of the corridor’s expected consequences for Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.
This investment also takes place at a time when the Indo-Pakistan relationship is marred with suspicions and hostilities, with several incidents such as cross-border skirmishes, allegations of cross-border terrorism, and the Kashmir dispute characterizing the relationship.
In light of these geopolitical dynamics, this paper will examine several important aspects of the proposed corridor. First, it will shed light on its different components, including proposed projects and internal infrastructural developments for Pakistan. China’s strategic rationale for investing in Pakistan will also be considered. After surveying U.S. and Indian perspectives on CPEC, the paper will then identify the key security challenges and prospects for the project’s successful implementation and its ability to allay trust deficits between India and Pakistan. Conclusions and implications will then be drawn regarding the near to the medium term.