Let Asia be for Asians
By Muhammad Nasir
THE economically strengthening China, eager India, confident Japan, re-emerging Russia and the ‘mighty’ US have created extreme vulnerabilities and imbalance in Asia. Peace and prosperity of this region in particular and of the world, by and large, is relative to shared relations between these real powers. The Asian region and its subregions are going through fundamental changes since long. One of the major elements defining the power dynamics of Asia is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Under the flagship of One Belt One Road (OBOR), CPEC is a thoroughly considered and well-crafted component of collaborative initiatives that will not only determine economic and strategic connectedness between China and Pakistan but will also integrate the Asian sub-regions.
The mega component will have such implications that would change the political and economic potentials of Asia. It will initiate new routes, reinforce regional connections and emancipate the region to stand on its own rather than depending on the west. Pakistan, holding a significant position in Asia and being a frontline state of CPEC, stands at the crossroads of regional and international dynamics. The geo-strategic significance of Pakistan is apparent from the reality that it is bordered by economic giants like India and China on one hand and on the other hand, by the states which have abundant natural resources like Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan lies between a US-NATO war on terror in Afghanistan, hegemonic Indian claims on the so-called disputed areas, the Post-Cold war – revived Russia which is of late becoming influential in the South Asian politics and a Rising China finding space in the region both economically and strategically.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is perceived to be a vital bridge in the all-weather friendship of Pakistan and China. CPEC would strengthen Pakistan’s economy and will enhance its regional political position. However, CPEC has become a nightmare for some regional and extra-regional elements including USA, India and to some extent Afghanistan that are straining the CPEC to their interests in the region. Maintaining the historic desire of establishing its dominance in South Asia, the arch-rival India cannot see a strengthened economy of Pakistan through manifestations of CPEC. India realizes that Pakistan will move towards self-reliance due to completion of the CPEC and is, therefore, misleading the world by setting a narrative that the CPEC is crossing from a disputed territory. Ceasefire violations along the LoC indicate this Indian frustration. India apprehends that the changing balance of power will restrict Indian sway in the region. Another reason for not accepting the CPEC is that India is failing miserably in its plan to isolate Pakistan internationally because many countries including Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are interested in joining this economic corridor.
In the contemporary scenario, the United States of America remains cautious about the rise of any power that can impact the strategic and regional politics of Asia. As mentioned in the US National Security Strategy (NSS), President Donald Trump and his Administration have accepted China as a competitor that challenges USA’s power, interests and influence. Preserving a strong impact in the Asian region is a part of America’s strategy. China’s increasing geopolitical confidence has been consistent in the past few decades. Therefore, US Administration now views China as a threat to its dominance. USA realizes that CPEC may have significant strategic and political effects on America’s strategy about the region.
For a landlocked state like Afghanistan, CPEC is of fundamental significance in geostrategic context. With the expansion of CPEC to Afghanistan, the state can turn into a noteworthy recipient and beneficiary of this mega component which will improve economic conditions of the country and will bring the weak Afghan economy back to regularity. But instability in Afghanistan will generate instability in the region and has a potential of sabotaging CPEC. In Afghanistan, India is trying to create its own impact by massively investing in the country by taking part in infrastructure development.
The strategy behind India’s objectives is to isolate Pakistan from the western side of the border because from the western side, Pakistan has immense trade opportunities resulting in economic uplift. Moreover, India is using Afghan soil to sponsor terrorism in Pakistan and especially in Balochistan. The Afghan government is being manipulated by a thought process that India is aiding Afghanistan in infrastructure development but factually there is no concern of India to stabilize Afghanistan. One of the prime interests of India is to destabilize Pakistan. An unstable Afghan land is in favour of India because undercover activities from Afghanistan can be well operated. On one hand, India gets an easy access to inaugurate terror attacks in Pakistan and on the other hand, the blame of instability in Afghanistan can be put on Pakistan. Unstable Afghanistan and unstable Pakistan are not at all beneficial for the region and particularly for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The basic aim of this evil propaganda is to reduce the captivation and attractiveness of CPEC to the international world. The thinking reflects that when large-scale terror incidents and instability in Pakistan will catch the attention of global world and media, speculations and economic loss will start emerging.
Pakistan must realize the ground realities and through diplomatic handling, Pakistan must incorporate a well-balanced strategy in its foreign policies towards the West and China. Pakistan should make sure that in the fight between superpowers, economic interests of Pakistan must not be comprised. Attempts to de-escalate tension on eastern and western border must be made because both the sides are significant in the context of national security and economy of Pakistan. Afghanistan holds prominent significance in the geo-strategic landscape of both Pakistan and China. Peace and prosperity in Afghanistan is of crucial importance for Pakistan and China. A stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and the whole region. It is high time that Pakistan and Afghanistan must join hands for the economic and strategic advancement generated by CPEC. For this purpose, the Administration of both the countries must sit and stop the usual blame game and must start genuine and significant bilateral discussions.
The strategy must be to make regional actors as partners in CPEC instead of enemies. It is important for the people of the region to run regional affairs at their own. Asia for Asians must be a vision of future and the US and the regional countries must appreciate the collaborative development of the region and must accept the fact that “Asia is for Asians”.
The article was first published in People’s Review
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