CPEC is projected to become a portmanteau yin-yang with global and local implications that has a simultaneity co-presence of universalizing and particularizing tendencies for Pakistan, China and world geopolitics. The multibillion dollar project, under OBOR Initiative, is focused on trade and investment related matters seemingly grandiose scale engenders considered to be harbinger of the future of geopolitical flows yet simultaneously raises the eyebrows of strategic analysts to ponder about the possibility of a Thucydides Trap for rising China and global hegemonic USA, a term coined by Graham Allison in his recent book “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap?” The US and China competition increases the probabilities that their countries falling prey to Thucydides Trap, or, on the contrary, China-US competition could only lead to further widening the cleavages of stability-instability paradox in South and Central Asia.
The US and China are the global economic and military giants with conflicting viewpoints to influence the global approaches. Apparently, China-US relations have been in turbulent waters where China marshals its acme of skills by winning the wars without fight truly adhering to the 5th BC Chinese strategist Sun Tzu through investment in economic and military spheres in South Asia, South-East Asia, Africa and beyond thereby materializing OBOR Initiative. Whereas the US is making efforts to remain relevant in the geopolitics of world by following the Clausewitzian designs that war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse with a mixture of other means and through military conquests and destructions. In the current global geopolitical scenario, the result of US and Chinese policies is such that the US is not winning a single war from Afghanistan, to Middle East and Africa or elsewhere with the application of military means and destruction whereby China is increasing its global influence and winning each battle without military application. Chinese grand strategy is based on the construction and investment with shared interests, destiny and responsibility as stated by President Xi Jinping during the launching ceremony of CPEC.
Oxymoronically, Pakistan is enjoying irreplaceable all-weather relationship with China quintessential win-win promises for the peoples of China and Pakistan on one hand and contrarily, continues to be strategic partner with the US in war against terror despite experiencing turbulent times. The absurdity is further accentuated with the US strategic partnership with India, putting Pakistan at the verge of continuous arms race to maintain the strategic stability and minimum credible deterrence against India. The Indo-US honeymoon is declared by the US policymakers as an endeavor to counter the threat from China which is considered to be a direct threat by Pakistani policymakers, academia and strategists. The US and Chinese competition in South Asia is further affecting the “Stability-Instability paradox” and the South Asian nuclear armed rivals may offer a potential battle-ground for China and America.
During his 2016 Independence Day speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of supporting voices from Balochistan and Gilgit must be seen as a strong signal of his deliberate shifting of Indian foreign policy. Modi stated that “the people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us, and I am grateful to them.” With such an Indian rhetoric that India should reach out to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and recent statements of Trump Administration on CPEC bringing into line with the Indian narrative that CPEC passes through a disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “The One Belt, One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate”. Pakistan and Chinese policy makers need to restrain the negative voices and provide the local populace with a practical, comprehensible and productive message on what is to be expected from CPEC initiative. Pakistan needs to truly adhere to the Machiavellian advice by having a fox head to identify the traps and lions body to terrify the wolves.
The local context and voices screaming from Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan need particular attention by the policy makers concerned with the CPEC. Gilgit-Baltistan is the gateway of CPEC with a politico-constitutional limbo status in terms of its exclusion from Article 1 of the CoP even though the people of Gilgit-Baltistan got their independence from Dogras in 1947 and annexed themselves with Pakistan. Since then the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are continuously demanding their integration with Pakistan and Pakistan’s continuous denial is giving space to anti-state elements like Abdul Hamid Khan a defector living in Belgium and self-proclaimed Chairman of Balawaristan National Front (BNF) to become the Indian mouth-piece and some other so-called nationalists detracting the youth based on the political and constitutional disparities of the region. Similarly, the recent move of the PML(N) government to free of cost allotment the public lands for the SEZs to CPEC is another issue adding more to the deprivation and marginalization of the already marginalized. As a reaction of non-recognition by the government on land rights and ancestral territorial rights compels even the mainstream political parties for agitation. People of Gilgit-Baltistan are so naive and so dominated by present necessities that a deceiver will always find someone who will let himself be deceived. With such local issues, defectors and global backing by Indian and US lobbies working against the interests of Pakistan and China in the region, it is dire need of the hour that political, constitution and fundamental human rights of the people must be protected to shun the foreign sponsored voices. Let no chance be given for the deceivers to let our youth be deceived, let no chance be given for India to design the Kautilyan Mandala and her ambitions of becoming a regional Chakravertin capable of using the full extent of her powers. Let nobody be allowed to play the games either in local perspective by addressing the genuine demands of the populace and in a global perspective by not presenting ourselves to be deceived for which a glocal eye is required to observe the Glocalization of CPEC.
It is therefore, recommended for the government and actors affiliated with CPEC that local rights especially land rights and ancestral territorial rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan must be protected by minimizing the vulnerabilities through enactment of laws by respective provincial assemblies.