The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Part of Chinese larger flagship project, One Belt One Road (OBOR) is termed as a ‘game changer’ and has dominated the imagination of strategic experts across the globe and more so in India and Pakistan.
Despite understanding the risks involved, China has gone ahead with the project as China intends to address multiple issues by playing the CPEC card.
CPEC has huge economic and strategic implications especially on triangular geopolitical equations between China, Pakistan and India. The grand CPEC project is bold geo economic initiative by China which has the potential to alter the strategic environment.
Let’s be clear that CPEC is much more than just economics. The Indian government has expressed its deep reservations on the issue due to its territorial and strategic interests. However there are certain sections amongst intellectuals and leaders who advocate that India should join the CPEC and derive the payoff that CPEC offers.
CPEC is an apt example of symbiotic project which if completed successfully will provide China the access to Arabian Sea via Gwadar port and is also likely to bring development to Pakistan. The experts largely agree that on completion of CPEC, Chinese presence in Indian Ocean will undermine India’s clout and the stronger and wealthier Pakistan will not be good for India.
CPEC project is fraught with risks as the route of CPEC passes via volatile and unstable region of Kashgar in Xinjiang (part of China’s Uighur Autonomous Region), Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan which are infested with home grown insurgency therefore viability and feasibility of the project remains doubtful.
Despite understanding the risks involved, China has gone ahead with the project as China intends to address multiple issues by playing the CPEC card. One it tries to access the deep sea port of Gwadar in Arabian sea for its oil import and thereby resolve its Malacca dilemma, two, it tries to usher in development in the least developed area of Xinjiang and thereby managing long standing insurgency amongst Uyghur’s. Three, it helps in salvaging the collapsing economy of its proxy Pakistan and fourth it indicates to the world of its growing clout.
Until now, China has been ‘quite and neutral’ on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir but CPEC might change its viewpoint given its economic stake in CPEC.
Most of the analysts in India are apprehensive about the aspects related with CPEC but it does offer India a unique opportunity. There remains an opportunity of disrupting the much hyped project of two traditional adversaries.
Let’s view CPEC in this way. CPEC is an issue having huge ‘strategic content’ and will surely challenge India’s interest when operationalised fully. Until now, China has been ‘quite and neutral’ on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir but CPEC might change its viewpoint given its economic stake in CPEC.
India need to understand certain issues related to CPEC and makes the optimum use of the various factors involved for achieving its long term goal.
There are certain commonalities in the region via which CPEC traverses. All these region of Xinjiang, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Baluchistan contains large swath of territory. They are rich in mineral resources, and are witnessing a deep rooted insurgency. Also there has been considerable effort by the state to alter the demography of these areas .There is a sense of alienation amongst the populace due to high handedness by the state machinery. The local populace are complaining against the state administration and are demanding autonomy or even independence. The media activities are severely restricted and are largely under state control.
In Pakistan, there is diverse opinion on CPEC amongst provinces on the route options and the share of revenue. The media in Pakistan is projecting it as a game changer but locals are asking game changer for whom? There is no doubt that CPEC brings largest ever FDI into Pakistan but economists are apprehensive about the debt trap it might create for the government.
Gilgit-Baltistan provides India the opportunity to raise its concern against CPEC on diplomatic front and Baluchistan is an opportunity to make CPEC “un-implementable”.
CPEC due to its alignment is likely to give maximum payoff to the state of its Punjab province for which other province is calling CPEC as the ‘China Punjab Economic Corridor’.
India needs to exploit on the common apprehensions of the section of people in Pakistan on CPEC being another East India Company.
India must view the issue of Baluchistan and its popular insurgency movement from the prism of its strategic interest. In fact time is there to learn from our neighbours who incited certain issues to suit their long term goal.
As success of CPEC is dependent on the internal security situation in Pakistan, India needs to exploit the deep rooted popular sentiments of the locals against Pakistan and China in the region to stall the progress of CPEC. India should support and unite the various ethnic groups dissenting against state and help them air their views on international platform.
Currently Gilgit-Baltistan provides India the opportunity to raise its concern against CPEC on diplomatic front and Baluchistan is an opportunity to make CPEC “un-implementable”. The failure of CPEC would amount to a great setback for both China and Pakistan.