Dilemma of National Narrative The Case for Building Domestic and Regional Narratives for CPEC
Building a national narrative on CPEC is appearing to be a daunting task for the government of Pakistan. Such a dilemma does not characterize Pakistan alone, but troubling policy issue peculiar to the BRI project as a whole. The Chinese-led mega projects have preyed on rival narratives since its initiation in 2013. Since the region is characterized by regional rivalries and interests of the major powers, it is plausible that such an ambitious project like BRI in general and particularly CPEC will continue to face the dilemma of narratives. To place the discussion in perspective, the paper is sectionalized into three parts. The first part theorizes narratives, it why, by who, for what, and whom. With the theoretical premise, the second part argues that Pakistan needs to strategize its CPEC narratives on two levels. Domestically, it requires a very cautious approach to define the national or state narrative. In the presence of multiple sub-nationalities, at the provincial level and relatively weaker broader national sentiment, it is crucial to develop a consensus with caution. At the external level, a regional narrative might be built with the help of like-minded states and by employing a strategy to bring most of the regional powers into the project of CPEC. The paper concludes that building narratives requires a joint effort by the ruling elite (political and intellectual), civil society, and media at the domestic level and also imperative for Pakistan to adopt a counter-narrative strategy through diplomatic channels, to generate mutually acceptable trans-regional counter-narratives against the propagandist agenda, bent at tarnishing CPEC.