Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a $ 52 billion project (China’s investment in Pakistan) being implemented since 2015, when both Pakistan and China signed an agreement to construct this Economic Corridor. This is a huge project comprising the construction of about a dozen power projects, a grand road and Railway network connecting the Kashghar city of the Xiang Autonomous Region of China with the Gwadar port city of Pakistan. The project also includes construction of 11 industrial zones and laying of fibre optic from Kashghar to Islamabad. While the Corridor would connect China and Pakistan, it would also connect South and Central Asian countries and China with each other and with the outer world and vice versa for trade and travelling, saving their precious time and cost since it would be a shorter and cheaper route. This facility would be equally available to all South Asian countries including, India provided those countries are willing to join the CPEC. Since all other South Asian countries are willing to join the CPEC, China and Pakistan desire that India should also join the CPEC project to draw related major economic advantages and also enable other SAARC countries to join the project.
But India is opposing the construction of the CPEC rather than deciding to join it. Apparently India is opposing the CPEC by offering the logic that the Corridor will be passing through Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, which is a disputed area being part of the former princely State of Jammu & Kashmir. This is a worldwide known fact that Jammu & Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India is recognized by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), that has passed resolutions since 1948 to resolve the dispute based on holding a plebiscite under its supervision to enable the Kashmiris to exercise their right of self determination to express through a vote whether they wanted to join Pakistan or India. In this context, whereas Pakistan was willing then and is willing even today to hold the plebiscite under UNSC supervision, it is India that refused then and even refuses today to hold the plebiscite under UNSC supervision since India knows that Jammu & Kashmir being a Muslim majority state the outcome of the plebiscite will be in favour of Pakistan and India would lose the state. Therefore, India’s declared pretext to oppose the CPEC on the ground that it passes through the disputed territory over which India has also a claim is not the actual reason, in fact there are other larger reasons for India opposing the CPEC.
Firstly, keeping up with its traditional desire and strategy of establishing hegemony in South Asia, India does not want to see strenghting of Pakistan’s economy by enhancing its trade and investment through development of the CPEC. Therefore, India is playing negative politics by misleading the world through its propaganda by taking an untenable stance that the CPEC is passing through the disputed territory. In this context to establish its claim that Gilgit-Baltistan is its soil it should now agree for holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. To counter its argument Pakistan can also conveniently say that why India is building various projects in the Indian Occupied Kashmir since it is part of Pakistan as per the 1947 partition formula. Indian leaders should keep in mind that the construction of the CPEC will be completed despite India’s negative propaganda and its sponsored terrorist acts in Balochistan.
Secondly, as per Modi’s anti Pakistan declared policy, India was struggling to isolate Pakistan at regional and world levels. However, as India got disappointed to observe that due to the construction of the CPEC, Pakistan was getting popular at the regional and world levels and India’s efforts of isolating Pakistan were failing, it started opposing the CPEC out of frustration. In this regard Indian leaders should learn this lesson that negative politics do not succeed in the 21st Century. Moreover, Indian leaders should realize that it is harmful to go against the tide. Therefore, it is better that India should give up its negative politics being played against the CPEC and instead of opposing the project, it should decide to join it to draw related major economic benefits to advance its own economy. And also instead of criticizing the project by referring to its passage through a disputed territory, India should sit with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir dispute on a permanent basis so that South Asian countries could focus on their economic development through intra regional and inter regional integration to be facilitated by the CPEC.
Thirdly, India does not want China to enhance its trade and investment in other countries through the connectivity to be facilitated by the CPEC. Since India considers itself as a competitor to China at regional and world levels, it does not want China to further advance economically and in economic diplomacy based on CPEC-related connectivity. Hence, by opposing the construction of the CPEC and by sponsoring terrorist acts in Balochistan India wants to discourage China to give up pursuing the CPEC project. In this context, Indian leaders should rest assured that while India’s propaganda cannot mislead the world on CPEC, its sponsoring of terrorist acts in Balochistan will also fail to deter the Chinese from working on the CPEC as Pakistan would be providing foolproof security to them. The importance of the CPEC could be felt from the fact that most of the regional and other countries have already agreed to join the CPEC. For example, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs), other South Asian countries, Russia, Iran, the UK and many other countries have stated their desire to join the CPEC.
Fourthly, India is opposing the CPEC to slow down China’s economic growth and contain its peaceful rise. This is again a negative politics being played by India against China, because while China has invited India to join the CPEC, India is endeavouring to harm the project. In this context, Indian leaders need to understand that it is more profitable to achieve India’s economic progress through cooperative strategies rather than opposing China’s useful regional development projects like the CPEC. Being well aware of the fact that India has no capacity to contain China, India may be opposing CPEC to please the US, its strategic ally, by showing that it is in the forefront in containing China and harming Pakistan’s interests since Pakistan is cooperating with China in the construction of the CPEC.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that India is opposing the CPEC to achieve multiple objectives. For example, to maintain its hegemony in South Asia, India wants to limit Pakistan’s economic development options. It also desires to publicize its false claim over Azad Jammu & Kashmir. While India aims to undermine China’s economic advancement in a bid to contain its peaceful rise, by not joining the CPEC, India too wants that other South Asian smaller countries in its north-east do not join the CPEC since it will end India’s hegemony. By denying to join the CPEC India also intends to constrain Afghanistan from joining the project, if India joins the project, then Afghanistan will also join and in that case, both the countries will be under pressure to agree for peace in Afghanistan and for keeping good relations with Pakistan. If this happens India will not be able to carry on with its game plan of defaming Pakistan by blaming it for Afghanistan-related terrorism since with the better understanding of mutual regional integration goals Afghan reconciliation would take place since all the regional countries would be on the same page.
At the end it can be said that it is beyond doubt that India will ultimately fail in its negative politics in South Asia and under social pressure of regional countries, it will be ultimately convinced to leave its anti-development politics in South Asia and join the CPEC although by then enough precious time would have been wasted to achieve South Asia’s intra-regional economic integration and this region’s economic integration with China and Central Asia.
[The writer is working for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad.]