I used to work in Pakistan, experienced the armed conflict in Kargil, the military coup, the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, unprecedented tension between India and Pakistan, and worked closely with my Pakistani counterparts, thus forging deep friendship with Pakistan. Since then, I have been paying close attention to Pakistan and following its all development. Recently, I have often been interviewed by China Economic Net/Pakistan VSH News on Pakistan's major events.
Because of colonialism in history, Pakistan has been ravaged by three wars. Early this century, Pakistan became the biggest victim of the war against terrorism, making heavy sacrifices for the U.S. military attack on Afghanistan. The harsh external security environment and the serious social unrest caused by the U.S. military operation against terrorism have made Pakistan's socio-economic development seriously lag behind for a long time. Poverty and backwardness have further led to the spread of extremist and terrorist forces.
In recent years, the Pakistani government and people have increasingly realized that social stability and economic development are the top priorities. Therefore, the Pakistani army and law enforcement departments have successively implemented a series of effective anti-terrorism operations in tribal areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and in major cities such as Karachi. The overall security situation has been developing in a better direction, thus creating a favorable security environment for the country's socio-economic development.
Pakistan is located in the key position of the "crossroads" of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Since ancient times, the two continents of Europe and Asia have got interactions all through Pakistan. China and Pakistan have "all-weather" relations, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project of China's " Belt and Road" initiative. Over the past five years, China and Pakistan have worked together to build the economic corridor, which has led Pakistan on the road of development and stability. At the same time, it is a preliminary demonstration of Pakistan's bright future to the whole world.
Here, I would like to make four specific suggestions about how construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor could further lead Pakistan on the road of development and stability.
First, we should fully understand the strategic significance of the economic corridor construction. The economic corridor is a major project jointly constructed by China and Pakistan, as well as a cooperative project between China and Pakistan. Most of the 22 major projects under the framework of the economic corridor are electric power and transportation infrastructure. The completion and operation of these projects are crucial for Pakistan's future socio-economic development. Electricity is the heart of the country, and transportation infrastructure is the artery of the country. Only with enough electricity and more developed transportation infrastructure, could the development of the country be vigorous, and could Pakistan maintain a high rate of economic growth.
Second, Pakistan should gradually build up self-reliance ability. We highly appreciate Prime Minister Imran Khan's emphasis on improving people's livelihood and a series of measures taken. However, it should be pointed out that the construction of the economic corridor, including electric power and transportation infrastructure, is the biggest livelihood project and is conducive to solving the fundamental problems of people's livelihood. Pakistan is facing many difficulties and we should get to the root of the problems. Hospitals, schools and other daily livelihood problems can be solved step by step with mobilization of the financial resources of the local government and the people.
Third, the strength and position of the country should be enhanced through industrialization. Driven by the construction of the economic corridor, Pakistan will gradually have the conditions to develop large-scale industries and promote the development of modern service industries. Pakistan experiences shortage of foreign exchange from time to time. At present, it is facing this difficulty again. The fundamental reason is that the industry is underdeveloped and many daily necessities are imported in large quantities, while the main export is agricultural products. Therefore, industrialization and modernization of the country should be gradually realized so as to continuously strengthen Pakistan's regional strength. The strengthening of Pakistan's power position is also conducive to breaking the regional unipolar pattern, establishing regional power balance and maintaining regional peace and stability.
Forth, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has the value of strategic investment. I firmly believe that, with construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, sooner or later, Pakistan will enter the track of rapid development, achieve economic rising and become an emerging market country. Recently, Saudi Arabia has decided to invest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and some South Korean companies have also expressed their intention to invent in the corridor. I believe more countries will participate in the construction of this corridor. This shows that more and more countries have realized that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has strategic investment value. Therefore, the Pakistani government should make further efforts to continuously improve the policy and security environment for external investment in Pakistan.
Cheng Xizhong, Special Commentator of China Economic Net, Senior Fellow of the Chahar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian Countries, former UN Senior Military Observer