Pakistan has a new way of reform and opening up, and yes it is through corridors. Since the inception of CPEC, Pakistan has seen a rise in the foreign direct investment, recovery of its image and a growing realization of its untapped economic potential. The Corridors have since caught the spotlight of the Pakistani intellectuals as a means of improving connectivity, trade, and development. Corridors for purposes such as Trade, Energy, People-to-People, Religious, Digital, Air and Tourism can greatly benefit the economy and the image of the country in the comity of nations.
One of the best examples of trade corridors is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Under this initiative, the Governments of both China and Pakistan will establish transportation and communication links on either side of the border to synergize the economies of the Indus Valley and Western China. The plan is to increase the two way flow of trade and exchange of natural resources through secure lines of transportation. The CPEC is a great example of South-South cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development.
Looking westwards, The Afghan Transit Trade once served as the main artery of the Afghan Trade. The revival of the dialogue in Afghanistan can be a revival of the Afghan Transit Trade too. Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan had earlier mentioned that any major infrastructure project in Pakistan has a direct and lasting effect on Afghanistan. He was also very optimistic about Afghanistan joining the CPEC. The East-West Trade corridor could be a major breakthrough for the South Asian region where there could be a free flow of goods both from west to east and east to west. This is not a distant dream and only needs positive engagements between the leaderships. This corridor could be an important confidence building measure for the regional countries.
Pakistan has a brand new deep seaport, Gwadar. The port is painted with much skepticism in the western media, however the reality is very different. The port is ideally located on the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Tax free schemes, Special economic zones, tax holidays, deep water berths, connectivity and cheap labor are the cornerstones of the Gwadar Port. The Saudis have expressed their interest in establishing an oil city at Gwadar. Just like for the Saudis, the Port is open to any country for investment.
CPEC again takes the center stage here, CPEC project has remained the primary source of power production for Pakistan. Billions have been spent in Power projects which are fueling Pakistan’s industry but the Power produced is never enough. Pakistan is an energy hungry country, it is a 220 million people market which has long caught the attention of the Central Asian energy and power suppliers.
The dream of energy corridors connecting the region has already been realized by the CASA-1000, the abbreviation for Central Asia-South Asia power project. This power project transmits 1300MW of surplus electricity from Central Asia to be used by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Another ambitious project known as the TAPI project is also under construction in various patches. Russian Gas Giant Gazprom is conducting a feasibility study on a 10 Billion dollar gas pipeline intended especially for energy supply to the special economic zones of Pakistan. The port city of Gwadar will also be a natural gas and oil supply hub between the energy rich and energy hungry countries.
People to People and Religious Corridors
The Government of Pakistan has just opened the Kartarpur Crossing for Indian Nationals and especially the followers of the Sikh Faith to visit one of their Holiest Sites, which also happens to be the birth place of ‘Baba Guru Nanak’. This corridor has been declared Visa Free and requires no prior appointment at all. This has been an outstanding wish of the 120 million Sikh community in India and abroad. This bold step was taken by Pakistan at facilitating the people across the border and improving relations between India and Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan is the
This concept has yet not been introduced in Pakistan but serious thought should be given to Tourist Corridors. Pakistan’s northern areas are blessed with unimaginable landscape and scenery. Trekking, Mountaineering and Adventure and Ecological Tourism can be the highlight of the Tourism Corridor. Skardu and Gilgit Airports should have visa on arrival facilities for most nationalities. Land routes should also have visa on arrival facilities so that Chinese tourists visiting the Xinjiang region can cross directly into Pakistan. Limited zones/valleys should be opened for tourists and tourism facilities should be established. As contrary to popular perception, adventure tourism requires much less investment in infrastructure. Young backpackers from around the world, travel to Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and throughout South East-Asia in search of adventure and exotic experiences. To these backpackers, five-star hotels and luxury facilities are of not much interest. Over a period of time when the local industry will gain back strength, private entities can invest in tourist infrastructure.
Pakistan has a great location which has unfortunately not been used fully to our own benefit. Foreign elements have always used Pakistan to pursue their interests, be it trade or strategic. It is high time that Pakistan starts to be the master of its destiny by itself. Corridors can hence be a great source of revival for the Pakistani nation.