Can CPEC add benefits to Pakistan-Turkey relations

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), reminiscent of the Silk Road, is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe.

The Silk Road Initiative aims to expand China westward. With this, Central Asia has become the epicenter of globalization by linking Eastern and Western markets.

This route reached its peak during the Roman and Byzantine Empires, but the Crusaders and the Mongols curbed the trade routes and left behind the economically isolated Central Asian countries and the fact is that today they depend on shipments of Russian funds.

But here the question arises: where is China today? Did China stop working on its Silk Road project when it knew the immense benefits that came with it?

Well, China will never give up on this project. China proposed a One Belt One Road initiative, later known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

President Xi Jinping launched the BRI in 2013 with the intention of introducing a wide collection of development and investment initiatives from East Asia to Europe. This project streamlined border crossings both west through the mountainous former Soviet republics and south to Pakistan – India and the rest of Southeast Asia.

The BRI plan has two components: 1) The Silk Road Economic Belt by Land; 2) The Maritime Silk Road. The objective is to establish a new trend towards a multipolar world; Economic globalization; Cultural diversity; Greater IT application, a global free trade regime and an open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation.

President Xi’s vision is the establishment of a network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, IT industry, special economic zones, international airports and seaports, etc. The goal and the vision appear to be an excellent opportunity for all regional states to realize their greatest economic and security interests.

So far, 146 countries (as of March 2022) representing around 2/3 of the world’s population, more than 40% of global GDP and ¾ of global energy reserves have joined the BRI. But here the question arises whether CPEC can be extended to include Turkey or not? The answer is yes!
CPEC is a BRI flagship project worth $60 billion.

CPEC is not only a bilateral initiative, but it has a regional perspective. It has the potential to become a truly regional initiative where CPEC can be extended to Central Asian states, Afghanistan, Turkey and Oman.

It aims to promote: An orderly and free circulation of economic factors; Highly efficient resource allocation and deep market integration; Encourage countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and conduct broader and deeper regional cooperation of higher standards; and jointly create an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all.

The project aims to strengthen/create energy, roads, ports, special economic zones and international airport infrastructure.

The CPEC, as a symbol of cooperation between China and Pakistan, envisions the establishment of 2,700 kilometers of road, railway, fiber connection, energy pipelines, industrial zones and exclusive economic zones (MONE ).

Starting in China’s Xinjiang region and reaching the coastal city of Gwadar at Pakistan’s exit from the Persian Gulf, the line is one of the most important milestones of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

With its strategic partnership, CPEC has a mode of cooperation, “1+4”, with the following four pillars: development and operation of Gwadar port in modern conditions, construction of infrastructure, establishment of commercial and power lines of China in Pakistan and exclusive economic zones in Chinese investments in Pakistan.

The corridor occupies a leading position in the growth of the Pakistani economy and provides access to the Straits of Hormuz and Bab al Mandab, which play an important role in the import of energy from China and the port of Gwadar. But in the current environment of CPEC, how to include Turkey?

Pakistan and Turkey are iron brothers. They supported each other through thick and thin. If we look at the GDP of the two countries, they amount to: Pakistan’s GDP is $348 billion (44th rank) while Turkey’s GDP is $692 billion (23rd rank).

Since CPEC is a bilateral partnership, it can be transformed into a “trilateral partnership” between China, Pakistan and Turkey.

The three states can work to achieve trade, investment, and improvements in major imports and exports on both sides. If we look at imports and exports between Pakistan and Turkey, Pakistan’s imports from Turkey amounted to US$533 million in 2021, while Pakistan’s exports to Turkey amounted to US$293, US$58 million in 2021.

Pakistan largely exports generators ($92 million), cotton ($112 million), etc., while importing machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers ($102 million), cotton ( $79 million), etc.

Turkey and Pakistan are at the most strategic places in the region. Throughout history, the region of South Asia has been the apple of the eye of the world with its ancient culture and wealth.
By joining the BRI-CPEC, the two countries can further improve their defense arrangements; maximize their regional connectivity and increase trade; can further strengthen their economic partnership; improve their cultural ties; further strengthen mutual political and diplomatic relations; and working for public welfare and better tourist facilities. It’s a win-win situation. Now the question arises is it doable?
The answer is still yes! It’s not something new.

Pakistan, Iran and Turkey have been members of the regional development cooperation RCD in the past. Therefore, through CPEC, RCD can be revived with the new and latest trends of development projects.

Pakistan and Turkey are already connected via the RCD Asian Railway network and the Asian Highway network, so CPEC will not be starting from scratch. The CPEC will contribute to the realization of the old development and prosperity plan. So why not ?