CPEC and future Threats
CPEC is a multi-billion project aimed at regional connectivity, improving Pakistan’s economy and turning Gwadar into a trade hub of this region.
Various countries have shown interest in becoming part of CPEC and reaping its benefits
. However, the mega project faces huge strategic and security challenges. The changing dynamics of South Asia is particularly concerning for the security of CPEC.
The region is witnessing the rise of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Baloch insurgency in Baluchistan and India’s hostility towards Pakistan in general and CPEC in particular. For a past couple of years, these threats have begun to materialize, in 2018 a suicide attack in Mastung killed 149 people.
The responsibility of the attack was claimed by Islamic State, while in 2019 Baloch insurgents stormed the PC Hotel in Gwadar, resulting in the death of five people. These events indicate the need for swift action and planning on part of both China and Pakistan.
Security experts and analysts in Pakistan have expressed fears and issued warnings that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan by September will bring greater instability in the region and this will definitely put CPEC at risk.
With the approaching deadline of September 11 just around the corner we have already felt an increase in the instability in the area and a definite spike in the cross border attacks by the TTP in the border areas of Pakistan with Afghanistan.
The American evacuation from Afghanistan and a very weak Government in Kabul means a serious threat in the region and greater militant activities by Taliban groups the TTP, Daesh and, of course, the well-entrenched Taliban groups inside Afghanistan.
It appears that the future looks full of opportunities for the TTP as they will have safe havens in areas close to the borders with Afghanistan.
The resultant chaos and anarchy that is sure to happen in Afghanistan after the American forces are gone will prove a very attractive opportunity for the TTP to attack different projects of CPEC and they have made no secret of their opposition to CPEC and the Chinese presence in Pakistan.
Some areas of Chinese investment are located near or within the traditional areas of TTP influence or near them so it is obvious that it makes them natural targets of the TTP.
It has also been seen that there has been an increase in the anti-China propaganda of the TTP because of China’s (alleged} mis-treatment of the Uyghur Muslim community of China and in spite of the fence built in the border areas Pakistan has every reason to worry about the danger to the CPEC projects in Pakistan.
Apart from external threats CPEC is also under threat by our own homegrown monsters in the form of militant organizations hell bent on attacking the country for their own ideological aims. Balochistan has been the scene of many attacks on the CPEC projects.
Local militant groups in Balochistan passionately believe that they are fighting a war against the exploitation of Pakistan in their resource rich province and they are opposed to the policies of China based on expansion and oppression intended to subjugate and eventually occupy the areas of Balochistan.
In their worldview China is pictured as another East India Company hell bent on colonization. Balochi militant organizations have targeted Chinese interests.
Gwadar Port was attacked when a party of oil and gas workers was being escorted by para-military troops and earlier the Karachi Stock Exchange was also attacked because a large portion of the stake on Pakistan Stock Exchange was sold to a consortium of Chinese investors.
In a recent briefing the DG ISPR stated that for sabotaging CPEC India has raised a militia of 700 militants to carry out terror attacks in Baluchistan and a Commission of 24 members has been created including 10 operatives from RAW and 60 million dollars have been dedicated for this force.
Shah Mahmud Qureshi voiced his concern when he informed newsmen in Islamabad that India is bent upon sabotaging CPEC because the success of this gigantic project can be an economic game changer for Pakistan.
According to the Foreign Minister, New Delhi has established a cell in their intelligence agency with the sole objective of disrupting and attacking CPEC projects. This cell is working actively under the Indian Prime Minister with the clear mandate to disrupt and hinder the CPEC projects in Pakistan.
To counter any threats to the CPEC, Pakistan has raised and deployed two security divisions to safeguard the projects and the personnel working for their speedy completion.
Imran Khan in a recent statement stated that his government will complete the project at any cost, as the project is a manifestation of the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan.
A senior official of the Chinese Government reiterated that no attempt to sabotage CPEC will succeed.
He added that CPEC was an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative and it was not only important for common development of the two countries but also for regional connectivity and prosperity.