By Zhang Yi Source:Global Times
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged $20 billion investment in Pakistan during his trip to the South Asian country over the weekend, the first leg of his Asian tour that also includes stops in neighboring India and China.
The unprecedented Saudi investment, half of which will support a refinery and petrochemicals complex in the port of Gwadar, is expected to shore up Pakistan’s economy hurt by widening current account and fiscal deficits and strengthen trade ties between the two countries.
Some observers are quick to compare the Saudi investment with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But for Prime Minister Imran Khan, both are welcome.
“We have CPEC. We have links with China. So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us,” he said.
The crown prince also stressed the potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which will contribute to the development and prosperity of the region.
The corridor includes a network of highways, railways and infrastructure and Gwadar is an important part of it. Pakistan has been trying to get the assistance needed for development and diversify sources of investment from many countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Gwadar is not an exclusive platform.
The China-funded CPEC helps build the infrastructure at the port, and the improved condition will attract more investment which then in turn boosts the development of Gwadar and the whole of Pakistan. Inclusiveness and multilateral cooperation are exactly the ideas that the BRI champions.
Admittedly, geostrategic competition is prevailing in the region. If added with the different interest demands of Afghanistan and Iran and the historical enmity between India and Pakistan, the region can be one of the most volatile places in the world. Joint development is the only path that could lead the region into long-term peace and stability. This is also the broader objective of the BRI.
China hopes that all the investment coming into the region can be connected so as to be best utilized. Regional countries should enhance cooperation via coordination. Meanwhile, all should hold an open attitude toward investment from outside the region.
As each regional power vies for a foothold and seeks its development, both competition and cooperation feature in this process. All the countries face the question of how to turn strategic hedging into benign competition. The BRI provides the answer.
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