India’s unwarranted concerns over CPEC

News & Views

Mohammad Jamil

After having failed in its efforts to create roadblocks in China-Pak Economic Corridor through subversive activities of its spies and agents, India has resorted to other means. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday raised New Delhi’s concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during a three-hour-long meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Sushma Swaraj made it clear India would resolutely oppose CPEC which runs through Indian-claimed territory in ‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’ (PoK). Indeed, Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory, and according to United Nations Security Resolutions, people of Kashmir would decide through a plebiscite whether they want to join Pakistan or India. Yet India is going ahead with the construction of dams on Pakistani rivers in Indian Occupied Kashmir. India should realize that it is not on high moral ground to ask Pakistan to abandon CPEC or projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Anyhow, Indian External Affairs statement has come two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that entire Kashmir belongs to India. Pakistani leadership has been trying to persuade India to start dialogue to discuss all the issues including the core issue of Kashmir. But let no one harbor any illusion on this score. Way back in 1994, India’s parliament had adopted a resolution, formally laying claim to Azad Kashmir. And though the Indians are not quite vocal publicly, in private they mince no words whatsoever about taking this position. Last month, Sushma Swaraj had declared that all of Kashmir belonged to India, and even the Congress supported her statement. One has to accept the harsh reality that when it comes to Pakistan, it is the overbearing Indian establishment that decides as to what kind of relations India would have with Pakistan.
India also took up China’s blocking of its bid for the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) membership and Beijing’s opposition to UN sanctions against Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar. In June 2016, China had scuttled India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the plenary meeting of the 48-nation grouping on the grounds that it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On 1st June 2015, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of CPEC during his visit to China and called the mega project unacceptable for the country. During a press conference, she said that the Indian government had summoned the Chinese envoy over the $46 billion economic corridor that is to run from Gwadar in Pakistan’s west to China’s Kashghar. China’s stance was that not only Pakistan and China, but entire region would benefit.
China’s Foreign Office had rejected India’s reservations on CPEC, and said that “India’s concerns are not right enough and we will carry on trade ties with Pakistan.” The CPEC project is part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia. It will give China easier access to Middle Eastern oil via the deepwater port of Gwadar. It would provide links from the Caspian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, and enable Gwadar to compete with Persian Gulf ports. But the United States is wary of Chinese strategic access to the Arabian Sea and its presence in the region. Reportedly, the US tried several times to persuade Pakistan against involving China in the mega project, not realizing that India has invested heavily in the road linking project from Afghanistan to Iran’s Chahbahar port to lessen importance of the Gwadar Port.
India’s objective to develop the strategically located Chabahar port along with the one with Afghanistan on road and rail network is meant to counter China and Pakistan’s alliance in South West Asia. India is to invest $500 million on development of the Chabahar port, but the bigger questions of feasibility of logistical linkages still remain unanswered. However, the question is whether India would gain much from Chabahar port and whether its efforts to bypass Gwadar would pay dividends? In fact, the cost and freight of the shipments from India to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states would be prohibitive. Thus, ultimately cost effectiveness will decide about the success of the ports, as distance from Mumbai to Chabahar is 930 nautical miles (1800 kilometer), and from Chabahar to Kabul is 1851kilometer, whereas distance from Gwadar to Kabul is 450 kilometer.
As regards India’s membership of the NSG, China is not the only one to oppose it. In May 2016 at the end of its two-day plenary in Seoul, the NSG declared its firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime, a clear indication that no exception will be made in the case of India. The statement by the 48-nation grouping, however, said that it will continue to have discussions on participation of countries, which have not signed the NPT. Though it is nearly impossible to enter the nuclear club without signing NPT, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited scores of countries to seek their support for becoming the member of the NSG. Earlier, Switzerland had showed willingness to support Indian inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group but took a U-turn to join the group of countries that opposed India’s entry in the group.
China was joined by Austria, Ireland and Brazil among other countries which questioned as to how a country like India which had not signed the NPT can be admitted to the grouping. Essentially, their opposition was couched in principles and processes. Brazil’s objections are said to have surprised the Indian diplomats who pointed out that it is a member of the 5-nation BRICS grouping. China’s stand that India’s membership application cannot be considered because it has not signed the NPT was backed by nearly 10 other countries. And despite backing of the US, the UK, France and a majority of countries in the nuclear trading group, India failed to get the group’s membership. Official statement of the summit said: “Participating governments reiterated their firm support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime.”
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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