Dost Muhammad Barrech
ALICE Wells the US diplomat for South Asian Affairs in her recent visit to Pakistan once again cautioned Pakistan to be wary of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC projects. She alleged CPEC was lacking transparency and Pakistan’s debt burden had been expending by virtue of Chinese financing. Arguably, international politics is derived by conspiracy theories and confusion. Harry S Truman rightly says “if you can’t convince them, confuse them”. Orchestrating ambiguities and confusion are strong component of international politics. Alice Wells, contemplation of creating perplexities and doubts in CPEC projects is part of the US foreign policy.
It is a fait accompli, there are no free lunches in international politics. States make foreign policies by espousing rational approach to maximize relative gains. CPEC, thus, is not a freebie for Pakistan, statecraft of the country is fully cognizant of pros and cons of the projects. To bear in mind, in post-CPEC arena, Pakistan was seen by the international community in prism of terrorists’ attacks, perceived as unsafe place for the investment; Investors were reluctant to invest in the country. CPEC, under current juncture, has won the confidence of the investors; Foreign Direct Investment FDI has significantly been increasing in Pakistan. During 2012-2013 Pakistan’s industrial sector had to bear Rs. 564 billion loses annually. The losses due to chronic load shedding were around seven per cent of the economy of the country. Under CPEC load shedding problem has considerably been resolved, industrial sector is thriving rapidly.
In such circumstances, when Pakistan under CPEC is making a steady headway, Wells’ bizarre criticism on CPEC needs a great deal of critical thinking. Pakistan, under the tutelage of China is unacceptable to the US and the US wants Pakistan to be a parasitic state to be more dependent on its assistance and aid. Pakistan undoubtedly is an important player for both China and the US in the region. The US has huge stakes in the region, without Pakistan’s assistance its geostrategic interests could not be served. Making CPEC controversial and granting economic assistance to Pakistan by the US be seen in the US geostrategic interest in the region. Obviously, 21st century is an era of non-conventional warfare and proxy wars, states are unlikely to wage direct confrontation. The US, therefore, is committed to creating troubles for China in its peripheries either it is issue of North Korea or CPEC projects.
Assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the US presumably is attributed to create chaos in the region. Growing Chinese foothold in the region, its 400 billion dollars investment in Iran pose a serious threat to the US interests. Killing of Soleimani and critics on CPEC witnesses a coincidence resulting in bringing China in hot waters. On the other hand, Pakistan-US relationship in the last seven decades remained transitional, the US followed carrot-and-stick policy for Pakistan. The US aid to Pakistan has mostly been military oriented as the US policy in the region revolves around proverbial wars. To the contrary, China does not follow carrot- and-stick policy instead initiates CPEC a flagship project of a monolithic Belt and Road (BRI) assuring win-win situation for its economic partners.
The US and China fight for supremacy across the world requires analysts to see their conflict in the critical framework. Power transition theory prognosticates power transition is inevitably material phenomenon the growing martial power of one state and the decline martial power of another state sets the stage for the conflict. The rising power gets more powerful, influencing the international system. Meanwhile, the established power fears the growth of rising power, trying to contain that power by hook or by crook. The modus operandi of power transition could trigger a war between rising and declining power. However, power transition theory can be negated in the age of globalization on account of growing economic interdependence among the states.
Currently, direct war between rising China and assumingly declining US is less likely to happen due to their economic interdependence. The US and China annual bilateral trade has surpassed 650 billion dollars. The US has invested more in China than in its closest allies India and Japan. Direct confrontation by the US with China would cause more destruction to the US itself than it to China. Instead of war with China, the US, will leave no stone unturned to trigger non-conventional warfare against China for the purpose of countering its growing ascendancy across the world. In short, the US economically more dependent on China than Pakistan questioning Pakistan’s dependency on China puts many commentators in a quandary.
— The writer works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.