Politics

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan And China: The CPEC Trinity

CPEC
Image source: cpec.gov.pk

KSA adds great strength to the CPEC project, as being the third Strategic Partner

Although Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have shared a long lasting cooperative and brotherly relationship built mainly on mutual religious beliefs, yet in international politics, the nations choose to chase their own interests. Pakistan and KSA have supported each other in the hours of need and their cordial relations are strengthening with the passage of time. Moreover, the contemporary geo-economics also interprets KSA’s investment in CPEC as perhaps one of its strategies to diversify its economy.

Pakistan’s newly elected Government has brought a significant gift to its homeland after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first official foreign tour to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on Sept. 20. Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister, Fawad Chaudhary announced that KSA will be the third strategic partner of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s mega development project “Belt and Road Initiative”.  He added, “Saudi Arabia is expected to bring massive direct investments to the project.”

KSA would invest $10 billion in CPEC which may prove a catalyst for the speedy completion of several projects under CPEC.  The government of Saudi Arabia has signed three grant agreements with Pakistan to finance three road infrastructure and energy projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A visiting Saudi delegation “showed an interest to immediately invest in the refinery,” Pakistani Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said. “This has been agreed from both sides.” The agreement is set to be signed between the Pakistan State Oil company and Riyadh’s state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

This proclamation has not only emphasized the inclusive nature of the CPEC project but also set an example and paved the way for more foreign countries to invest in Pakistan. KSA is the leading country of GCC, and it could be one of the possibilities that the other Gulf countries, which apparently have no disputes with Pakistan, may be attracted to invest in CPEC, protecting their interests, whether socio-economic or trade. China could have no reluctance to include other Gulf States in the CPEC project because the ultimate purpose of China’s BRI is to connect Asia with Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  This may prove a catalyst for the Foreign Direct Invest in Pakistan and may have brighter possibilities for multiple business contracts with multiple countries in the near future.

Is KSA interested in CPEC for keeping an eye on Iran?

These developments have huge significance for Pakistan.  KSA’s regional opponent, Iran, may have some security concerns regarding KSA’s involvement in CPEC as its Chabahar Port is just 72 km away from the Gwadar Port — KSA would have an opportunity to keep a check on the activities of Iran on the Chabahar Port because of its geographical proximity with the Gwadar Port. In this context, as KSA and the U.S. are enjoying smooth relations with each other, the U.S. could get an access; check on Iran’s activities through cooperation with KSA. Now, the question arises what kind of apprehensions would India have regarding KSA’s investment in CPEC?

It is pertinent to remind here that since Pakistan and China have started to work on the CPEC, India is overtly opposing this project claiming that the CPEC route passes through the disputed area (northern area) between India and Pakistan. The U.S. has supported India’s stance on this project.

This is truly a development project; India’s opposite stance is baseless as the people of the disputed areas (claimed by India) have every right of better standards of living like others. As far as the world’s disputed areas are concerned, there are such examples where developmental work has been done, such as last year, the Philippines released photographs of the construction of structures by Chinese vessels in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea during the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane. India beefed up its concerns against the Chinese sponsored CPEC. Will the disputes between or among countries obstruct the overall development of the region and the populace residing in those areas?

Hence, the KSA-Pak $10 billion deal has added great strength to the CPEC project and may provide a good countermeasure against India’s nefarious views on CPEC.  Even Russia has shown its support for CPEC as well as many other countries. The contemporary regional geopolitics of South Asia is capturing a relatively more powerful picture of Pakistan on the world map. It indicates that Pakistan appeals more states, with the willingness of China as a partner of CPEC to counter the negative propaganda by the opponents of this mega project.

Simultaneously, CPEC would be a golden ticket for Pakistan in order to drag Foreign Direct Investment in Pakistan in the coming years but the best security and political stability provided by Pakistan is prerequisite. Under the CPEC project, the development of Gwadar Port has huge economic significance. Being 250 miles away from the Strait of Hormuz, this port provides a stable and nearby point of access to the Gulf ports and is a key shipping point in the whole region. Forty percent of the world’s oil is supplied through this Strait. This port will provide an access to the landlocked Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Xinjiang in China to the Arabian Sea’s warm waters. Pakistan will attract a sufficient investment in Baluchistan by making this port a pivot of regional trade. The funds will be opening the doors for the construction of roads and rails connecting this coastal region to the rest of Pakistan. Consequently, better infrastructure of Pakistan would bring a better economic condition for the country.