Doklam-CPEC dynamics


Iqbal Khan
With India eating dust over its Doklam folly, eastern and southern prongs of One Belt One Road (OBOR) are free of Indian military resistance. And by the time India recovers out of this humiliation, OBOR would have gone beyond the Indian sphere of influence. Earlier Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to join President Xi Jinping’s initiative to knit together with Asia and beyond, India was the lone country to boycott the “Belt and Road Summit” in May 2017.
India’s Foreign Ministry stated that it had agreed with China to an “expeditious disengagement” of troops. “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam…expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going.” China said it was ‘pleased’ that India had agreed to withdraw troops. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ms Hua Chunying commented: “Of course, we hope the Indian side will learn lessons from this incident and prevent similar things from happening again.” China has forcefully contradicted New Delhi’s claims of mutual troops’ withdrawal from Doklam region, saying that only Indian troops have been pulled out from the border. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “Chinese troops will continue to patrol the Doklam region.”
Though China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is out of danger from direct Indian disruption, unannounced opposition would continue through India’s terrorist proxies, mainly stationed in Afghanistan. Modi carries a plateful of anti-CPEC baggage—which in now like a bone in the throat whose movement either way is troublesome. India is opposing the CPEC by planned propaganda and disruptive campaigns. A number of video reports which Indian electronic media correspondents have prepared while operating under cover in Azad Jammu Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan are in wide circulation to trigger public sentiment in these areas. Foreign based and dollar paid pseudo Pakistani scholars routinely sneak into Pakistani think tank activities to raise what they perceive as emotional aspects of the project by retriggering those issues which have long been settled.
Outcome of tension arising out of Indian aggression over Chinese road-making in a Himalayan plateau—Doklam—over which not India but Bhutan has a claim, have brought out that, at least for the time being, India has shelved its programme of engaging China militarily. China had repeatedly and furiously denounced the Indian move in Doklam as a direct infringement on its sovereignty, it demanded an immediate, unconditional Indian withdrawal; and had warned that conflict was a real possibility if that didn’t happen. Beijing had made it known that it was ready to go to war to teach a lesson to India for its belligerence. It is good that India has learnt the lesson without losing another war to China.
Sanity has prevailed; outcome has reaffirmed the strategic reality that India is no match to China. And only day-dreaming cannot make any country a super power. Event has reinforced the well-known realities of China-India strategic balance. It has also radiated a strong message in the region and beyond that India doesn’t have the capability and capacity to stand up to China. Some smaller countries of the regions which were expecting India to do so have come to know that they stand abandoned by India to fend for themselves. And far away, Americans too have concluded that India had been hoodwinking the US in the name of doing heavy lifting in America’s “Contain China Strategy”. What to talk of doing any lifting, India has failed in the very qualifying round staged in Doklam. India had indeed grossly miscalculated Chinese response.
However, domestic fallout of Modi-inflicted Doklam crisis will not let India’s itchy mindset towards China cool for quite some time. China and India have a series of disagreements. India is deeply suspicious of China’s friendly relationship with Pakistan, and of its growing military activities in and around Indian Ocean, even though China is not in violation of any international norm. In recent months, India has also upset China over the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who now lives in India.
The US also frequently hobnobs with Dalai Lama to irritate China. China has already become a leading world economic power and Pakistan is all set to benefit from around $60 billion CPEC projects. In addition, Pakistan’s neighbours are poised to reap fruits of CPEC. Gwadar Port is a gateway to the CPEC and it would become global trans-shipment centre. First special economic zone in Sindh is being set up in Dhabeji, which would be completed by 2019.In due course, nine free zones under the CPEC would be set up in the country. CPEC affiliated projects would significantly benefit the people of Balochistan. CPEC is a part of China’s global development projects for its economic gains and it accounts for just five percent Chinese infrastructure development investment world-wide. Around $11 billion would be spent on roads and infrastructure in Pakistan through the CPEC; investment on water resource development and electricity generation is also noteworthy.
Trump is encouraging India’s’ worst impulses on CPEC-related issues. He is irked that CPEC is becoming a hallmark project. The US is also upset that Pakistan’s foreign relations are improving with many countries despite a propaganda war launched by India, Afghanistan and the US. Trump has no exit strategy with regard to Afghanistan. There is something unusual the way Trump has constantly been harping that Pakistan has been double-dealing with terrorists; maybe he is hiding behind this mantra to settle his score with Pakistan for being part of CPEC-OBOR. Since the signing of CPEC Memoranda of Understanding with China, America has substantially scaled down its aid to Pakistan on a number of flimsy grounds.
The four-year track record of progress, since signing of the bilateral deal in July 2013, reflects China’s seriousness towards CPEC. This year is witnessing heralding of a new era of development with completion of CPEC early harvest projects. Construction work on a number of projects in transport infrastructure sector is going on in full swing. Pakistan and China have signed framework agreement for upgrading Pakistan Railways; this is a landmark initiative for improving rail connectivity from Karachi to Peshawar. In the Gwadar project, a number of important mega projects are being fast tracked. The contract of the Gwadar Master City Plan has been signed. This project would develop Gwadar at par with international modern port cities.
Investment of around 36 billion dollars is being made for the projects of electricity. Out of this, 11 billion dollars are being spent in Sindh, over 6.5 billion dollars in Punjab while work worth billions of dollars is also in progress in the KP and Baluchistan. Pakistan Army has deployed more than 14,000 troops to guard the security of CPEC projects and the Chinese workforce.
CPEC will not only benefit China and Pakistan but will also have positive impact on Iran, Afghanistan, India, Central Asian Republics as indeed the entire region and beyond. Recently Azerbaijan has also joined the club of countries which wish to be part of CPEC. Participation of Azerbaijan would not only bring positive economic changes for Baku, but also benefit the corridor as Azerbaijan holds a strategic location as a transit hub for East-West China Europe Corridor, which is another prong of greater Silk Road plan.
Friends of Pakistan are happy while its enemies are perturbed over the CPEC becoming a reality at a phenomenal pace. Even though CPEC has gathered critical mass and picked up requisite momentum, a watchful eye is needed to thwart Indo-US anti-CPEC nexus. China and Pakistan should expedite work on this project so that it could be completed well in time which will bring conspiracies and rumours to an end.

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