Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Can Benefit From CPEC By Pathik Hasan

PAKISTAN, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are South Asian countries. As an island county in South Asia, Sri Lanka has been utilizing some facilities in the sector of international maritime trade and commerce.

Sri Lanka is known as a maritime hub in South Asia and its Colombo port is very famous in the world. On the other hand, Bangladesh has some geo-strategic significance that’s why China is interested in investing in Bangladesh.

Now Western powers want to see Bangladesh as a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region. But Bangladesh has joined China-run BRI in 2017. Its location across the Bay of Bengal gives it a strategic position in South East and South Asia.

However, Pakistan is the only South Asian country which is showing its full-scale strategic significance to the world.

Its foreign policy has shifted towards geo-economics from geo-strategic. CPEC and Gwadar port have added extra value in this regard.

China-run Gwadar port and CPEC has increased more confidence between China and Pakistan to prove that they are really an “all weather ally”. Sri Lanka has some advantageous position in South Asia in case of maritime connectivity.

It is also known as a maritime hub in South Asia. Sri Lankan Hambantota port is a hot cake in international politics. Sri Lanka has leased it to China for 99 years. China is more interested to connect Sri Lanka with its connectivity project “Belt and Road Initiative”

It is very pertinent to mention that Sri Lanka and Pakistan are both active members of China’s ‘BRI’ project.

Sri Lankan Hambantota and Colombo ports are considered as epicentre and hub of China’s BRI project in South Asia.

Sri Lankan ports can be used as a regional maritime hub between South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia and the ME. Sri Lanka and Pakistan can work together in the sector of bilateral trade, investment, science and technology and culture through enhancing connectivity.

Sri Lanka is one of the top most business partners of Pakistan in South Asia. Pak PM Imran Khan visited Sri Lanka early this year.

During his visit, Mr. Khan focused on Pakistan’s connectivity with Sri Lanka which has historical connection with Pakistan. Sri Lankan Colombo port’s connection with Pakistan’s Karachi port is well known.

Pakistan is the part of the Chinese President’s Belt and Road Initiative through its flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Sri Lanka could benefit from it through enhanced connectivity up to the Central Asian states. Bilateral connectivity would increase bilateral trade between the two states.

Basically, Sri Lanka and Pakistan would benefit mutually. Sri Lanka can ensure its maximum interest by using the Gwadar Port for warehousing to facilitate trade with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Western and Central China, Central Asian Republics and the ME.

Gwadar is connected with CPEC. Ultimately, Sri Lanka can easily export to and import from the markets of above-mentioned states. Sri Lankan can use Gwadar Port’s gateway for export to Afghanistan and then Uzbekistan and from there to entire Central Asia.

The main thrust of this article is connectivity amongst Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The author of the article shows that if Bangladesh’s Chittagong, Payra, Mangla ports are connected with Pakistan’s Gwadar, Karachi, Port Qasim and Keti Bandar ports via Sri Lankan Colombo and Hambantota ports, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan would benefit trilaterally.

Regional connectivity would ensure their own maximum business interests. The millions of people in the region could benefit.

Sri Lanka’s tea, apparel, machinery and Bangladesh apparel, mangoes, medicines, potatoes can be easily exported to the above-mentioned markets.

On the other hand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka both import goods such as cotton from Pakistan, Central Asian States, Western and Central China, and even Russia. But a holistic trilateral effort is much needed in this regard.

If Sri Lanka and Bangladesh use CPEC, they can take part in the development process in Afghanistan with Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran. SAARC may be revived through these activities. Revival of SAARC is must in the present context or scenario of South Asia.

Pakistan’s Gwadar port could benefit Sri Lanka in this regard. If Sri Lanka starts to use Gwadar port, its export to Central Asian states, Central and Western China and Pakistan would increase.

Sri Lanka’s connection with Pakistan’s CPEC project would accelerate the regional connectivity further.

The bilateral connection between two states would boost up. Sri Lanka and Pakistan can increase their joint bilateral efforts to counter terrorism, tackle covid-19 etc.

Terrorism has been harming the economic interests of both states. Sri Lanka saw Easter Church attack in 2019.

Pakistan has been facing the challenge from the TTP. If Pakistan and Sri Lanka increase connectivity through utilizing of these connectivity projects, bilateral efforts of tackling and countering terrorism would ensure automatically.

Tourism is another sector. Pakistan has many historical Buddhist sites such as ancient civilizations of Gandhara, and Taxila. Sri Lankan people can easily visit these historical sites if connectivity between two states is built.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has historical places for Muslims like Adam Peak. Pakistani Muslims will be able to visit the holy site. But bilateral connection is necessary for ensuring that CPEC is a regional connectivity project. As a regional state, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh each can and should join the project to exploit the benefit.

This trilateral connection would boost up the business connection and people-to-people contacts. Public diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cricket diplomacy would grow stronger.​

Source: Published in pak observer

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