The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s $46 billion strategic trade route to the Indian Ocean, promises to expand Chinese influence in the region and to help answer Pakistan’s deep need for economic development and stability. Pakistan’s minister of planning and economic development, Ahsan Iqbal—the cabinet official overseeing CPEC in his country—discussed this massive project at the U.S. Institute of Peace on February 3. Mr. Iqbal spoke to Pakistan’s outlook on its progress, its potential challenges and its implications for U.S.-Pakistan relations.
China and Pakistan have begun signing the detailed agreements to start building CPEC—a swath of highways, energy projects, special economic zones, and other industry and infrastructure, now at varying stages of construction. The Chinese and Pakistani governments say these project will promote connectivity and economic development in Pakistan and South Asia. By reducing Pakistan’s widespread unemployment and energy shortages, CPEC may help the country address grievances that have fueled violence and instability.
Yet questions remain on what CPEC may mean for Pakistan and South Asia. Key CPEC projects in Pakistan are at risk from armed dissidents, corruption and political battles at the provincial level. CPEC could also have lasting regional implications for Pakistan’s neighbors. While India has raised concern over CPEC and greater Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, the projects could be an opportunity to boost development and stabilization in Afghanistan. It is uncertain what this Chinese investment means for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and what stance the administration of President Donald Trump will take on these projects.
Pakistan Minister of Planning and Development
Andrew Wilder, Moderator
Vice President, Asia Center, U.S. Institute of Peace