Pakistan is highly dependent on China for its economic as well as military terms. About half of the total Chinese foreign aid goes to Pakistan only. Now, China is investing 62 billion (initially 46 billion) US dollars in Pakistan in a project called China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. Various agreements such as energy, infrastructure, port development and the railway line construction have been signed by the two countries under this project. Xi Jinping said that China is looking forward to the progress in this corridor to push the bilateral relations at a higher level. This is the highest investment that Pakistan has ever received and also higher than the total aid given by the United States to it since 2001.
The so-called economic corridor between China-Pakistan is a flagship program of One Belt One Road for the actual realization for Xi Jinping’s plan of ‘China’s Dream’. It is a link between Maritime Silk Route and the Silk Road Economic Belt of this Belt and Road Initiative. This Silk Road Economic Belt was discussed first time on September 7th, 2013 by Chinese president Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University of Kazakhstan. In his speech, he not only praised the ancient Silk Road but also asked Kazakhstan to build a modern Silk Road Economic Belt jointly with China.
On the other hand, Maritime Silk Route was discussed by him on 3rd October same year in the Parliament of Indonesia. He pointed out the significance of Indonesia in ancient Maritime Silk Route in his speech. He also stated Chinese plan to strengthen its maritime relations with ASEAN countries including Indonesia[i]. Silk Road Economic Belt runs to Europe through Central Asian countries, while Maritime Silk Road runs through the South China Sea, Malacca Strait, Bay of Bengal, Arab Sea and Suez Canal, joining Kyaukphyu, Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar ports and Djibouti military base of China.
CPEC and the Sovereignty of India
This corridor between China and Pakistan is not only passing through India’s territory but also posing a threat to the sovereignty of India. This corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan area of Kashmir which is occupied by Pakistan. It has raised various security concerns for India. The corridor enters into Gilgit-Baltistan through Khujerab Pass. This area is a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and claimed by India; since the ruler of this princely state Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of Accession with India in October 1947.
The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India in a response to the query by media on the possibility of the cooperation with China on the One Belt One Road said: “our position on One Belt One Road/ Belt and Road Initiative is clear and there has been no change”. He further reiterated that the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor violates the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of India. A project can never be accepted by a country which violates the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of that country. India believes that the initiatives of the connectivity must be based on the universally accepted and the other recognized international norms, transparency and equality, rule of law and must respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity[ii].
During Raisina Dialogue 2017, the foreign secretary of India S. Jaishankar also articulated that China is sensitive about its own territory but it has initiated a construction without consulting us through a territory which is Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi also asserted the fact that connectivity between the two countries cannot undermine the sovereignty of the other state[iii].
CPEC and Security threat to India
Ever since the construction of the corridor is started, the Chinese military presence in the area is also embarked. In 2017, Chinese troops marched in the parade of Pakistan’s day in Islamabad. This was the first time when Chinese military took part in any parade outside its country[iv]. Moreover, People’s Liberation Army has also deployed almost 30000 soldiers under the local name in Pakistan. These military personnel would establish a security wing in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and would be deployed around the projects built by the Chinese companies[v]. Pakistan’s navy officials have also accepted that Chinese naval ships would be deployed at Gwadar in cooperation with the navy of Pakistan for the safeguard of port and trade under this corridor[vi].
Apart from the naval vessels deployed in Pakistan, eight submarines are also delivered to it by China. The chairman of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIS), Hu Wenming has confirmed in a press conference that China has supplied eight modified diesel-attack submarines to Pakistan Navy. The Chairman also announced that CSIC would also set up a training center in Karachi for same purpose[vii]. These activities of China are a serious security threat to India since China is encircling India into the Indian Ocean. Chinese ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar also have got the naval vessels by China as well as the armed force of Sri Lanka also got patrol vessels and the varieties of the aircraft from China[viii] along with construction of Hambantota Port by China.
Now, China is planning to build its second a naval base in Gwadar port after Djibouti in 2017. Chinese military analyst based in Beijing Zhou Chenming accepted that the naval base would be used to maintain the naval vessels and docks. It would also provide some other services related to logistical support. He asserted that China should build this base for its warships.
Another close source to the Chinese military, People’s Liberation Army also confirmed that Chinese navy would build a naval base similar to the base in Djibouti. According to retired Army reserve colonel of the United States, the meeting of the chief of general staff of the Pakistan army Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar with General Li Zuocheng, who is a member of Central Military Commission (CMC), in Beijing indicated that that China would build a military base near Gwadar on the Jiwani peninsula[ix].
This naval base is hardly 72 kilometers away from the Chabahar port in Iran, in which Prime Minister Modi announced to invest 500 million US dollars[x], while it is only 400 nautical miles away from Indian western border of Gujarat[xi]. Gawadar port was meant to be a commercial port but the presence of Chinese warship in the area implies a security threat to India’s western border of Gujarat and to India’s investment in Chabahar port.
The Minister of External Affairs of India, Sushma Swaraj has also noted in the Lok Sabha that Indian government is concerned about the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through its territory which is occupied by Pakistan and asked China to stop such activities[xii]. India has opposed this corridor because it passes through the area of Gilgit- Baltistan which is an integral part of India. Whereas, Chinese scholar Zhao Gancheng mentioned that China cannot wait for Pakistan and India to resolve their territorial disputes to realize its economic development dream of OBOR.
The corridor has linked the two historical rivals of India. Chinese infrastructure development in the disputed territory between India and Pakistan is a violation of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of India. The corridor has witnessed Chinese military in Islamabad during the Pakistan Day’s parade. The presence of Chinese military personnel near India’s western border, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, the presence of Chinese naval vessels in the area, the establishment of a naval base in Gwadar, training center in Karachi; and the supply of eight submarines are posing a major security threat to India. This is an indication that India must re-strategize itself against the East and North side of the two-front conflict along with the security of its maritime borders.
[i] Gan Junxian and Mao Yan, ‘China’s New Silk Road: Where Does It Lead?’ Asian Perspective 40 (2016), 105–130
[ii] Ministry of External Affairs, India. Official Spokesperson’s response to a query on media reports regarding possible cooperation with China on OBOR/BRI, April 05, 2018.
[iii] Pant, Harsh V., “Responding to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Challenge.” livemint, Dec 1, 2017
[iv]Reuters, “Amid deepening ties, Chinese troops join Pakistan Day parade.” March 23, 2017
[v] The Times of India, “Chinese army spotted along Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, say sources.” March 13, 2016
[vi]The Times of India, “Chinese navy ships to be deployed at Gwadar: Pak navy official”, November 25, 2016
[vii] Gady, Franz Stefan. “China confirms export of 8 submarines to Pakistan.” The Diplomat, October 19, 2016.
[viii] Sputnik International, “India alarmed by China’s plan to deploy warship in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.” Dec 1, 2017
[ix] Chan, Minnie. “First Djibouti… now Pakistan port earmarked for Chinese naval base, sources say.” South China Mosrning Post, January 5, 2018
[x] Fazil, Muhammad Daim. “5 Reasons Gwadar Port Trumps Chabahar.” The Diplomat, June 09, 2016.
[xi] Sputnik International, “India alarmed by China’s plan to deploy warship in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.” Dec 1, 2017
[xii] Singh, Priyanka. “The China Pakistan Economic Corridor and India.” IDSA, May 7, 2015.