The CPEC was intimated with the inking a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Beijing in July 2013, in the presence of the Chinese Premier, Mr. Li Keqiang and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The objective, enunciated, was enhancement of economic regional integration in investment, energy, trade and communication. The aim is to create linkages between the Western Region of China and Pakistan by establishing communication links and developing Economic and Trade Corridors that would facilitate economic activity.

The CPEC spans over a 3000 kilometre route. The corridor is expected to be operational by 2020 when $ 46 billion expenditure would be incurred. The Gwadar International Airport and major developments of Gwadar Port is expected to be completed by this year, followed by the expansion of Karakoram Highway- the road that connects China with Pakistan and placement of fiber-optic line ensuring better communication between the two countries. It is estimated that implementation of the projects under the CPEC would pave the way for an unprecedented shoot-up in direct foreign direct investment which would account for 17 p.c. of GDP, according to the Deloitte and Touche exercise.

According to China Daily, the gigantic venture will increase electricity generation capacity by 16,400 megawatt plus 1,100 kilometer long motorway between Karachi and Lahore. Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border is scheduled to be wholly rebuilt, Karachi–Peshawar main railway line is to be upgraded to help trains move at up to 160 km an hour by December 2019. Pakistan's railway network will also be extended to connect to China's Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. Furthermore, a network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil has also been planned, apart from a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to transport gas from Iran. Oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar and transported to China through the corridor, cutting the current 12,000 km journey to 2,395 km. This will open up the new Maritime Silk Route linking three billion people in Asia, Africa and Europe, part of a trans-Eurasian project. When fully operational, Gwadar will become a gateway for Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, linking Sri Lanka, Iran and Xinjiang to undertake marine transport..

For Pakistan, CPEC has generated optimism for a massive reduction of energy deficit out of a $33 billion-plus worth of energy infrastructure, to be constructed up by private consortia. Between 2018 and 2020, 10,400 MW of power generation facilities would be installed.

Another area to be opened up is tourism between he Gilgit–Baltistan region, covering the 73,000 square km mountaineer’s coveted destination. The region in inhabited by over five thousand people amid peaks above 8,000 metres and more than 50 mountains over 7,000 metres. The world’s second highest peak K2 is situated there.

But there is resentment about the CPEC as well. .People are genuinely worried about widespread displacement of the locals. “Of the 73,000 square kilometers, cultivable land is just 1pc. If that is also swallowed by rich investors from outside, we will become a minority and economically subservient once there will be no farmland or orchards left to earn our livelihood from,' a local businessman, told Giligit Times. Local businessmen apart, energy experts are sharply divided on the long-term benefits of CPEC which “’has just highlighted the imbalance in provinces with the largest one, Punjab, ‘ states Vaqar Zakaria, energy expert and managing director of environmental consultancy firm Hagler Bailley Pakistan.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) chapters in Pakistan and China want the two governments to take care of environmental concerns in the CPEC and lay stress on consultations with the stakeholders, IUCN country representative in Pakistan Mahmood Akhtar Cheema told last year on the sidelines of a programme that the CPEC passes through several protected areas and “what we are suggesting is not just ways to secure these areas, but also to identify and declare more parts of land as protected which are of ecological significance”.

The mega-venture will apparently ensure strongest-ever diplomatic, economic and strategic bond between China and Pakistan but there are things hidden in the deal. Some former Pakistani diplomats are apprehensive of greater economic bondage in favour of China in the main. (IPA Service)