Why It’s A Big Deal For The U.K. To Join Pakistan And China’s CPEC

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Britain and several other EU countries are keen to join the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At least 52 countries around the world want to join CPEC amid China increasing its investment to $62 billion from $55 billion.

Pakistan has welcomed the U.K.’s desire to join CPEC, and now other nations in the EU and Central Asia also expressing interest in joining the game-changer project.

British Minister of State for International Trade Greg Hands said earlier this month that the U.K., “a country of global influence,” wants to be “an important partner” for China and Pakistan to help the two allied nations build closer ties with the U.K. and the rest of Europe and Asia.

Hands also pledged that his country would boost trade with both Beijing and Islamabad and stressed that Britain is willing to “capitalize on the new opportunities in the region.” The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is expected to create numerous business and economic opportunities for Central and South Asia and significantly improve connectivity in the region.

Last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at least 52 countries had already expressed interest in joining CPEC, but Britain’s bid would be one of the most vital, given the country’s global influence and its trade, economic and investment opportunities around the world.

Pakistan welcomes the U.K.’s interest in joining CPEC

Pakistan has warmly welcomed the U.K.’s interest in joining CPEC, with Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal saying that several other countries in the EU and Central Asia are also hopeful of becoming part of the project.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is likely to attract more foreign investors now that China has increased its own investment in it to $62 billion from $55 billion. China’s investment would be much higher if its private sector investment is taken into account. China, whose initial CPEC investment was $46 billion in 2015, has upped its investment by a whopping 35% in total. The increased investments are required to improve Pakistan’s infrastructure and power projects. As much as $34 billion of the entire project has been allocated to electricity production and distribution alone.

It would be a big deal for the U.K. to invest in CPEC

Relations between Pakistan and China are time-tested and exemplary, which creates a positive environment for foreign investment in ambitious projects such as CPEC, Pakistan High Commissioner Syed Ibne Abbas said earlier this month during a business roundtable on Britain’s participation.

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Abbas praised the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for creating “enormous opportunities for the global corporate enterprises” and significantly improving Pakistan’s economy. CPEC’s achievements for Pakistan’s economy include a 5.2% economic growth rate and securing emerging market status by several major international credit rating agencies. In fact, the Pakistan Stock Exchange has been declared as one of the five best-performing stock exchanges of the world amid the country’s major economic progress spurred by CPEC.

The involvement of influential global players such as Britain would have a greater regional impact to improve connectivity, and business and economic opportunities as well as expandthe  consumer market in the region.

China sends patrol ship to Pakistan, angering India

Not only has the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor improved diplomatic and economic ties between Pakistan and China, but it has also boosted their military cooperation. Last week, China delivered to Pakistan its third maritime patrol ship to safeguard Islamabad’s maritime interests and protect sea transportation under CPEC.

The increased military cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad, spurred by CPEC, is worrisome to India, Pakistan’s number one enemy. Although China reiterated last month that its stance on the Kashmir territorial dispute between Pakistan and India wouldn’t change because of CPEC, many Indians are concerned that China will push for an international resolution of the Kashmir dispute in favor of Pakistan to protect the project.

If India joins CPEC, which involves its two biggest regional rivals, it could benefit from it as well. However, in order to become a partner of CPEC, New Delhi would have to address the Kashmir issue, warned Pakistani National Security Adviser (NSA) Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua last week.

Russia closer to joining CPEC with Belarus bid

It’s not the first time the U.K. has expressed formal interest in joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Earlier this year, the British government started encouraging British companies to invest in CPEC projects to capitalize on the immense economic opportunities.

Britain is not the only nation that has expressed keen interest in joining CPEC this month, as Belarus – Russia’s biggest partner – has also expressed its desire to join the multi-billion dollar project. Last week, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain met with the Chairman of House of Representatives of Belarus, Vladimir Andreinchenko, in Islamabad, with the former saying that Belarus’ participation would significantly improve economic progress in the region.

If Belarus joins the project, it would be a major indication that Russia could also be interested in joining it after enjoying a few years of increasingly warm relations with both China and Pakistan. While there’s an ongoing speculation about the emergence of a China-Russia-Pakistan superpower triangle, Russia’s participation in CPEC would further fortify the partnership between the three countries, a move that would anger India, which remains Moscow’s key military weapons partner.

How can Russia resolve the Kashmir issue and save CPEC?

Many experts believe that it would be a big deal for Russia to join CPEC because it could help India and Pakistan resolve the long-standing Kashmir dispute, which would, in turn, promote peace and stability in the region.

With both China and Pakistan in hostile relations with India, Russia could offer a way for the two allied countries to reach out to India and make peace. While New Delhi may be angered by Moscow’s warmer ties with Pakistan of late, Russia still remains India’s close ally and strategic partner. Moscow’s stance of being between two fires could help seek a long-awaited peace accord between Pakistan and India.

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