CPEC & shifting security paradigm | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


CPEC & shifting security paradigm

THE grand success of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has disturbed “hegemonic” designs of India and its strategic ally the USA.

US hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan and speedy increase in ungoverned space has become a strategic “nightmare’ to its geopolitical and geo-strategic vested interest.

The rising levels of tension and violence in the regions crossed by the CPEC notably Kashmir, KP and Baluchistan have already forced the Pakistani government to deploy over 8,000 security personnel to protect Chinese workers and the issue of security along the CPEC’s path.

According to various international reports, the CPEC will result in the creation of approximately 700,000 direct and 450,000 indirect jobs by 2030, and boost the country’s annual growth by around 2-2.5 percentage points.

Timely completion of the CPEC would yield at least three key benefits to China. First, it would provide Beijing with a much-needed alternative energy supply route, reducing its currently very high reliance on the volatile and US-influenced route via the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.

Second, it would improve access to the Western China, notably Xinjiang, bolstering their economic performance and therefore fostering the all-important ‘stability-via-development’ agenda pursued by the Communist Party.

Third, it would create a new link between Central Asia and the Arabian Sea, thereby furthering China’s image as a responsible promoter of win-win economic opportunities across the Eurasian region.

However, the latest US airstrikes in Afghanistan show its frustration and de-attachment from the region because these tactics will achieve nothing but great chaos in the region.

It fears that even the Middle East may not be safe having Iran on one side of the Persian Gulf and its launching pad in Doha on the other side in the days to come.

In this regard, the governments of China, Russia and Pakistan have shown their displeasure, disapproval and dissatisfaction.

Moreover, Indian long-term investment in Afghanistan and Iran has been on the decline due to which all power brokers are now busy in power politics and trying to target CPEC and Pakistan.

In this regard, Dasu incident was planned by the worshipers of violence and vicious schemes in which thirteen people, including nine Chinese nationals, two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and two locals, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a coach carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of the 4,300 megawatt Dasu hydropower project fell into a ravine in the Upper Kohistan area after an explosion.

The Chinese Embassy, however, noted that investigations were underway. Both Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Embassy in Islamabad praised Pakistani security forces’ handling of the situation after the blast.

H.E. Mr. Nong Rong, the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, appreciated the security arrangements done for the Chinese people and CPEC projects in Pakistan.

“Ensuring foolproof security for CPEC projects and overall environment is our utmost priority,” the Federal Minister for Interior said.

“We have increased the manpower and overall strength of FC and Frontier Corps to make sure that there is no problem faced in the smooth functioning of CPEC projects” he added.

On its part, the Army reaffirmed its commitment to ensure security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The assurance was extended by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa during a meeting with Chinese Ambassador.

Security officials believe the sudden intensification of attacks was linked to the launch of the second phase of CPEC, the progress on border fencing and the fluid situation in Afghanistan.

Most recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi paid a personal visit to China and met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi in Beijing.

After the meeting a joint statement was issued which vividly reflected the depth of strong friendship between the two countries.

It covered all aspects of CPEC security apparatus, early start of CPEC phase-II, rapidly changing security scenario in the region, socio-economic structured engagements, official commitments and future pledges to work jointly for the timely completion of CPEC.

It upheld that Pakistan and China, vowing to take measures to prevent recurrence of Dasu-like incidents, and promised to expose the culprits behind the Kohistan bus incident and give them “exemplary punishment”.

Both sides agreed to expose the culprits and their ill designs through the ongoing joint investigation, give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure comprehensive safety and security of the Chinese projects, nationals and institutions and prevent recurrence of such incidents.

According to regional as well as international media the sad incident raised questions about the continuation of Chinese investment in Pakistan.

But the said joint readout suggested that the two sides were not deterred by the bus attack as Pakistan side promised comprehensive security for the Chinese nationals.

After the bus incident, the crucial Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), apex Forum for CPEC, was postponed.

But the joint statement suggested that both sides were committed to the multimillion dollar flagship program of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Both sides underscored that CPEC had entered a new phase of high-quality development, greatly contributing to the socio-economic development in Pakistan.

Both sides pledged to firmly advance the construction of CPEC, ensure timely completion of under-construction projects, focus on economic and social development, jobs creation and improvement of people’s livelihood and further strengthen cooperation in industrial park, infrastructure development, science and technology, medical and health, agriculture, human resources training with the aim to continuously unleashing the great potential of CPEC to make it a hub of regional connectivity.

Interestingly, both sides agreed to the need for building health, industry, trade, digital and green corridors. Both sides reviewed with satisfaction the remarkable achievements of CPEC.

The two sides look forward to convening the 10th JCC meeting to jointly promote the high-quality development of the CPEC and move forward the high-quality construction of BRI.

Both sides recalled that the enduring Pakistan-China friendship has reached the momentous milestone of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, being marked by the two countries with more than 100 celebratory events throughout this year, demonstrating warmth and deep sentiments of their unshakable fraternal bonds.

In further strengthening their all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and together charting course for the ‘Pakistan-China Community of Shared Future in the New Era’, both sides are committed to firmly implementing the consensus reached between their leaders, enhance mutual strategic trust, strengthen all-round cooperation, maintain momentum of high-level exchanges, further advance Belt and Road partnership, promote bilateral relationship to a higher level and delivering greater benefits to both countries and the two peoples.

Being a regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I submit that the grand success of CPEC has “demolished” ill designs of India and its master the USA.

Pakistan’s historic transition from geo-politics to geo-economy has further marginalized geopolitical and geostrategic manoeuvrability of Asian QUAD.

The Armed Forces of Pakistan and all agencies should chalk out a common strategy for the safety and security of Chinese workers, engineers and technicians working on different projects of CPEC.

Formation of CPEC Rapid Response Force, usage of drones, electronic apparatus and alternative security systems may be the way forward.

Integrated system of transportation based on TIR would be another method to secure Chinese and, of course, CPEC.

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