S Sadia Kazmi
CHINA rightfully maintains that the basic purpose of CPEC is to being about regional integrity through generating economic activity. However India doesn’t seem to be too convinced and claims that CPEC violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India as it plans to pass through Jammu and Kashmir, which it claims to be India’s territory. Nor does India look eager to join any setup which has Pakistan at the center stage. This doesn’t seem to be a very positive trajectory of relations for China and India to move along.
In addition to this, another traditional ally Russia is increasingly warming up to China. Russia, feeling a great discomfiture at the hands of US-India growing closeness, feels naturally upset. This could very well be one of the possible reasons as to why Russia is showing interest in establishing closer ties with Pakistan. The regional and global reshufflings are shaping up the broader shifts in the strategic outlook of the states. Russia’s concerns despite being the close ally of India sometimes have been over looked and India’s self interests with the US generally have taken the lead.
Now since China apparently has found a new ally in Russia, where both have joined hands to reap economic benefits from joint collaborative ventures, another common objective is to block Western influence and interests regionally as well as globally. This might be a reason as to why one doesn’t see any active support from Russia for India’s allegations against China’s intents behind CPEC. India claims that China is bent upon bringing infrastructural development and self sufficiency into Pakistan and ultimately letting it have inroads into Indian claimed territory of Kashmir. India views the CPEC as an insidious attempt by China and an attempt to change the ground realities.
The Chinese offer to India to join CPEC has been met with a question from Indian counterpart about how China would feel if the same situation arises in Tibet. Nonetheless China believes that India joining the CPEC would “boost its export and slash its trade deficit with China” and “the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum”. Mehbooba Mufti’s statement about opening up trans Kashmir trade routes as a supplement to CPEC, further give a hard blow to India’s territorial claims over Jammu and Kashmir. The wise move today as is being interpreted by many states is to embrace the CPEC not just to make it into a reality but because it promises huge benefits to all the participant states. Hence it serves everyone’s interests.
Simultaneously Russia and Pakistan have once again embarked upon the renewal of their bilateral ties after a long gap. The two held their first joint military exercise in September last year, succeeded by their first bilateral consultation on regional issues. Although the arms embargo was lifted back in 2014, it will be this year that Russia plans to deliver four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters to Pakistan. The news is also doing the rounds that Russia might merge Eurasian Economic Union with CPEC.
China’s refusal to grant a membership status to India in the NSG has further caused deterioration of relations between the two. One cannot rule out the possibility that testing of long range ballistic missiles Agni IV and V is India’s way of showing annoyance. However that led to an inevitable reaction from Pakistan in the form of testing its first sea cruise missile that could be eventually launched from a Pakistani submarine. In addition to this China has expressed the willingness to help Pakistan increase the range of its nuclear missiles. As per the editorial section in China’s Global Times, “If the Western countries accept India as a nuclear country and are indifferent to the nuclear race between India and Pakistan, China will not stand out and stick rigidly to those nuclear rules as necessary. At this time, Pakistan should have those privileges in nuclear development that India has.”
India however is not just banking on Russia or China but is simultaneously strengthening its partnerships with countries like United States, Japan, Australia and Vietnam. Not only is it resorting to increasing its nuclear capabilities on regular basis, but has also fortified its military along the Chinese border. While the presence of nuclear weapons serve the purpose of assuring regional deterrent guarantees, the shifting geopolitical alignments in Asia could lead to growing tensions in the Indian subcontinent and might add to the volatility.
— The writer is a Senior Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.