Geopolitics

Anatomy of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 16 Apr , 2016

Pak-China Economic Corridor

It comes as a little surprise that Pakistani army chief Raheel Sahrif has blamed India for what he describes as the efforts being made by its long time regional rival to undermine the high profile US$46-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project (CEPC).

…Baloch separatists and Baloch ethnic groups have expressed themselves against CPEC as well as Chinese involvement in various projects in the province.

According to Sharif, this project highlighting the economic cooperation between the China and Pakistan, described as “all weather friends” has raised eye brows in the region. As envisaged now, the CEPC project that seeks to link Pakistan’s southern port city of Gwadar in the ethnically turbulent Balochistan province with Kashgar, the headquarters of China’s restive north western province of Xinjiang inhabited by the Uighur ethnic minority group has been considered a win-win development for both the countries. Going specific, Sharif said, “In this context, I must highlight that India our immediate neighbour, has openly challenged this development initiative”. A well planned network of all weather roads, railway lines and pipelines forming part of CPEC is expected to spur growth in the geographical stretches—in both Pakistan and China– that are considered far from well developed.

According to reports in the Pakistani media, the first phase of CPEC, made up of a series of power plants including coal based ones, will be completed by the end of next year. Incidentally, Pakistan and China had inked an agreement in April 2015 to initiate work on CPEC with a financial commitment of US$46-billion which works out to 20% of Pakistan’s annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The two leading ethnic groups of Pakistan, Balochs and Pashtuns, have opposed the CPEC saying that it would, in the end, benefit only politically influential Punjabis. But Pakistani Government sources in Islamabad stress the point that CPEC would benefit the entire country by acting as a catalyst for the expansion of the economy and business in a big way.

In view of the threat that Baloch separatists fighting for an independent Baloch homeland and Islamic militant groups bent upon creating anarchic conditions could pose to CPEC projects running through Balochistan, Pakistan has made extraordinary security arrangements in and around Gwadar deep sea port under the administrative and managerial control of China. In fact, Baloch separatists and Baloch ethnic groups have expressed themselves against CPEC as well as Chinese involvement in various projects in the province.

The biggest geopolitical challenge for Pakistan is how to comply with the Chinese request for giving constitutional recognition to the illegally held Gilgit Baltistan region without inviting opposition from Kashmiri separatist leaders on both the sides of divide.

Media reports reveal that “a heavy police force presence, guarded convoys, new check posts and troop reinforcements” have turned parts of Gwadar into a veritable fortress. In fact, the political leadership, in both China and Pakistan, have been concerned over the safety of heavy investments being made to make CPEC a reality. A top ranking police official in Gwadar pointed out that“Soon we will start hiring 700-800 police to be a part of a separate security unit dedicated to Chinese security, and at a later stage a new security division would be formed.” Indeed, in the aftermath of Islamic radicals launching a daring attack on Mehran naval air base on the outskirts of Karachi in May 2011, Pakistan is not willing to leave anything to chance in so far as the security of Gwadar and CPEC projects are concerned. In fact, there are instances of ethnic Baloch separatists having kidnapped Chinese nationals in the province.

In the ultimate analysis, CPEC, at its take off point at Gwadar in Pakistan and final destination in Kashgar could face serious security problems. In particular, China will have to face the challenge of violent activities of Muslim Uighur separatists in Xinjiang. The light skinned Uighur ethnic minority of China which is culturally close to some of the communities in Central Asia is fighting for an independent homeland. There is now way that the CPEC will have a safe and smooth progress through other parts of its run.

The biggest geopolitical challenge for Pakistan is how to comply with the Chinese request for giving constitutional recognition to the illegally held Gilgit Baltistan region without inviting opposition from Kashmiri separatist leaders on both the sides of divide. China had made it very clear and vocal that it is essential for Pakistan to provide legal cover to the Chinese investment on CPEC running through Gilgit Baltistan where undercurrent of discontent against Pakistani occupation continues to simmer. Accordingly, Pakistanis mulling the possibility of turning Gilgit Baltistan region into the constitutionally recognised fifth province of the country. But this step will have serious repercussions in so far as keeping on boil the Kashmir dispute. As it is, Pakistan had not merged Gilgit Baltistan with the rest of the country with a view to project Kashmir as the disputed territory.

The foolhardy decision of Nehru Government in stopping the Indian defence forces from crossing the Kishan Ganga River helped keep Kashmir dispute alive.

Not surprisingly, China describes CPEC as a vital component of its much publicised One Belt One Road project that is aimed at linking Europe and Asia to boost trade, commerce and industrial production. On the other hand, the strategically located Gwadar sea port, on which China has a total control, would provide China an easy access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. And during the times of crisis, Chinese navy can move its personnel through the surface transportation network of CPEC to Gwadar from where they can straightaway make it into the Arabian Sea. Clearly and apparently, this is the most significant geostrategic advantage that China could derive by exercising control over Gwadar.

On another plane, the oil and gas pipelines originating from Gwadar can be utilised for the transportation of crude and natural gas secured from Iran. On a more practical level, this approach would help China to circumvent the highly vulnerable Strait of Malacca for the transportation of crude. Growing US naval presence in the disputed South China Sea is a major reason for China looking at an alternative route for transporting crude. Strait of Malacca choke point forms a part of South China Sea.

Beyond registering the protest against the CPEC run through Gilgit and Baltistan, an integral part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that was occupied by Pakistan through subterfuge in 1947,the Narendra Modi led Government has done precious little to break the illegal Pakistan-China nexus in the Pak occupied Kashmir. It was the glaring failure of the independent India’s first government led by Pandit Jawaharalal Nehru to re-annex Gilgit and Baltistan that opened the pandora’s box of Kashmir dispute. The foolhardy decision of Nehru Government in stopping the Indian defence forces from crossing the Kishan Ganga River helped keep Kashmir dispute alive. And the enormous price that India continues to pay for this thoughtless action is there for everyone to see.

The political leadership in New Delhi should wake up to the possibility of CPEC putting India in a vulnerable position in so far as the geo strategic calculus of the country is concerned.

The modernization and up-gradation of Karkoram highway—passing through the illegally occupied Gilgit and Baltistan region — as part of CPEC could enable both China and Pakistan to move heavy trucks and armoured vehicles without let and hindrance. The formidable Karkoram highway, described as one of the highest paved international expressways, connects Gilgit and Baltistan to Xinjiang. The still far from vocal movement for a separate Balwaristan in Gilgit and Baltistan could assume serious dimensions once increased Chinese presence becomes evident for executing projects under CPEC. Inhabitants of Gilgit and Baltistan have expressed themselves against the stationing of Chinese security personnel to take care of various projects being executed bythe Chinese companies.

There are apprehensions that CPEC could end up as a formidable wall planned to deprive India of access to areas that lie westwards in Afghanistan and Central Asia. There is no denying the point that the long term strategic challenge posed by CPEC could prove very costly for India. The political leadership in New Delhi should wake up to the possibility of CPEC putting India in a vulnerable position in so far as the geo strategic calculus of the country is concerned. The Narendra Modi led Indian Government should blaze a new trail in responding to the fall outs of CPEC with particular reference to the Indian security in the years ahead.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Radhakrishna Rao

Strategic analyst specializing in aeronautics, defence, space technology and international security.

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7 thoughts on “Anatomy of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project

  1. A strategic counter analysis to CEPC and Chinese strategies is required to arrest the Expanding tail of the dragon , while assessment of the motives of the Dragon can be perceived even by an unclear vision … Sheepishly , Indian side of vision has been ignored without any farsight , in terms of Chinese intentions …!!! If at all any business opportunity has to evolve and expand , necessary infrastructure need be evolved by not getting sold to the expanding ideology of the Chinkies by selfish interests of ‘Global Prudence of commercial and business ulterior motives of few traitor like minds ‘….We need to come out of these nation destroying shackles….

  2. Author has hit the nail. Fundamental issue is legality of construction of Highway in POK . Constitutionally Pakistan has no right and in this area. How effective is India ? China will have more strategic advantage besides boosting its economy.

  3. india is in great trouble in indian occupied kashmir CEPC project is gold mine for china and pakistani people and is going on full thrust> indians have left only 1 way to stop this is to attack on Pakistan but this indian army who cant fight with kashmiri freedomm fighters can face Pakistan army with 900 nuclear, hydrogen and tactical nuclear bombs including china? indian can only masturbates or call bolly wood to help>hehehehe

  4. Continued….

    The definitive predilection of Indian strategy, however, is the preoccupation with the the civil war waged by the State, as a surrogate of a defunct empire, in accordance with the plagiarized PANGOLIN* “Constitution”, to loot, plunder, disenfrachise and otherwise persecute the people who used to set standards of Nationalism, National Unity, Integrity, the pursuit of excellence and animosity to alien conquest and occupation. Any other “strategy”thus becomes unconstitutional, demanding resources that are already fully engaged and, therefore, non existent.

    *Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)

    (Concluded)

  5. Continued…

    I used to be a frequent visitor to the CSIR facility on Meiring Naude Road, Pretoria during the ’90s and was on a Nile cruise in December (Christmas) 1996 watching Egypt’s best belly dancers with Musharaf, Qaddafi and Mubarak on my way back from an Internet seminar at Oxford. I was, at that time, based in Nairobi working on bringing the Internet to Africa. Chinese plans have fructified, inexorably,including the highway from China ending with a Chinese Port on the Arabian Sea in Pakistan. Pakistan selected Balochistan for this in order to secure Chinese help to control Baloch rebellion which is now being brutally suppressed with Chinese help. India, with characteristic stupidity, is not fishing in the troubled waters of Pakistan. The US has shoved Russia towards China by escalating the William Lewinsky Clinton begotten Cold War with its Ukraine mischief. Which allows the China-Pakistan axis a stronger hand while weakening India even further. Pakistan has successfully locked in the US while moving closer to China than the US-NATO-Sunni Axis might wish. This is why the “Strategic” Long term plans for the People’s Liberation Army that was approved by China’s National People’s Congress (Parliament) more than a decade ago needs to be taken very seriously. Lebensraum it is.

    What India needs is a strategy to unleash it’s potential to become both a secular democracy and a power for the world to reckon with. A military doctrine would devolve from such as strategy.. From such a strategy would arise both the weapons and the men to invent, make and wield them.

    (Continued)

  6. Chinese influence in Pakistan, Africa and elsewhere runs very deeply. Submerged but audible to the sensitive sonar like the Jing and the Shang. China works to long term strategic plans that move step by step for decades towards a specified goal, China was active in Africa since the 1990s. They had an operative there in Nairobi who ran the best Chinese Restaurant in town, spoke English with his family and was point man for Chinese plans in Sub-Saharan Africa. He carried a PRC Passport and was close to the Pakistan High Commissioner. He traveled a lot and was quite open about China’s intentions. The plans were ready and waiting for the money to flow from the Chinese export boom to the US. I knew him well in 1995-1999 and was often invited for his soirees, with free food and drink to discuss matters related to the Internet and Information and Communication Technology. China’s long term contracts for raw materials and so on were done quietly but went on as stated, without secrecy, beyond the preoccupation of White House and Euro Centric media with other matters. Pakistan is a more nuanced case. Pakistan was the sword arm of Saudi Arabia which is the long term ally and funder of US opinion and decision makers. (Since Nixon, Kissinger and Sheikh Yamani forged the US-NATO-Sunni Axis). It is Pakistan that brokered the US-China entente cordiale. Nuclear weaponisation came to Pakistan from the US (not China which handed over help with missiles and subsequent evolution of Nukes into tactical (battle field) weapons to both Pakistan and North Korea later)) albeit through various routes, including Europe where Holland was an integral part of the CSIR (South Africa)-Israel Nuclear Weapons program and from where A.Q.Khan procured Pakistan’s centrifuges.

    (continued)

  7. The present Govt is far away different from all the previous governments. Our defense forces are good fighters but not war strategists. They are not good managers. They do not know what are the equipment required to fight a modern war. To make good this deficiency we should have a technically well qualified MoD and well experienced national security adviser. Modi Ji has succeeded in finding out suitable person’s in the two posts.. Another thing is that all the ministers are open to good suggestions. As a true citizen of India and made extensive study on defense requirements and war strategy, I do not give much importance to Economic corridor. It is not going to make any difference on India. of Chine’s development of economic corridor. They are doing it to get an alternate supply route to carry oil from Iran. This is required for them to recapture the Twain from the USA puppet Govt. In case of war USA will cut off the oil supply from middle east to China. So this corridor is safe a place for them because Pakistan will not allow USA to bomb this route. China is not going to attack us so long they recapture Twain. Now China’s economy is going down and their unfinished aim of recapturing Twain may be delayed indefinitely..

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