Iran is eager to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC – a part of the gigantic One-Belt One- Road initiative envisioned by President Xi Jinping.
This is not the first time that the neighbouring Muslim country has expressed desire to be a part of the multi-billion- dollar project with an intent to enhance land connectivity for trade purposes. The latest ‘expression of interest’ came during a meeting of Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost with members of the Pak-Iran Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
That economic integration and trading blocs are fundamental elements of the contemporary world order needs no debate. Examples in the context are the success stories of the European Union i.e. the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean. While the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, i.e. Saarc, so far failed to take off, CPEC has fortunately provided our region a much better substitute.
Billed as game changer and fate changer, the giant project has all the potential to integrate the region into a strong economic and trading bloc, which can then serve to decrease the global role of the United States and its allies.
That a lot of counties, including Britain, Turkey, Russia and several Central Asian states, have expressed the desire to join CPEC speaks volumes about the growing regional interest in the project and its potential to turn into an effective trade bloc.
Bringing Iran on board CPEC can be the first step towards regional integration. Iran believes “regional cooperation is one of the best ways to overcome poverty and other problems in the region” and says it is “ready to be a part of CPEC with all our capabilities and resources”.
Understanding full well that it is trade that trumps diplomacy, Iran is optimistic that CPEC can serve to narrow down diplomatic differences among the various states in the region by becoming a common platform of cooperation.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2019.