By Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a strategic project, which was signed between China and Pakistan in 2015. Because of its potential to help increase trade volumes, attract investment, boost industrial development, increase agricultural production and enhance employment opportunities for the people of the region, the CPEC would definitely act as a game changer for transforming the economic conditions of the people of Pakistan, China and other regional countries in addressing poverty and bringing prosperity. This mega project comprises the construction of a network of roads, railways, airports, industrial zones and communication system by laying fibre optic (Kashghar to Islamabad) from Kashghar city of western China to Gwadar seaport of Balochistan, Pakistan, including construction and expansion of deep-sea port of Gwadar itself. The CPEC project is being built with an initial Chinese investment of $ 46 billion which has been further enhanced to $ 65 billion.
Since the signing of the agreement for constructing the CPEC jointly by China and Pakistan in 2015, India started opposing this mega project. The declared reason for India’s objection is that the proposed route of the Corridor (existing Karakoram Highway route) passes through the disputed territory. This area is part of the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is now called as Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) since 1947/48, and another part of the former state of Jammu & Kashmir is under India’s forceful occupation, called as the Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) since the same time. As a principle, in the light of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions of 1948, India’s objection to the CPEC is illegal because a plebiscite was to be held in the state under the supervision of the UNSC, to know whether the people of Jammu & Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan or India. In this context, since 1948 India is not cooperating with the UNSC to hold the plebiscite. Hence, instead of opposing the CPEC passing through the disputed area, India should convey its consent to the UNSC for holding the plebiscite immediately, as since 1948 Pakistan is willing for holding the plebiscite by the UNSC.
Actually, because of CPEC’s economic potential, India is objecting to the construction of the project based on the mere pretext that it is passing through a disputed territory, otherwise, in 1958 India had not opposed the construction of the Karakoram Highway passing through the same area. While opposing the CPEC, India should also explain why it is constructing roads and dams in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. In fact, it is a matter of common sense to understand that in such disputed areas like Jammu & Kashmir, the construction of projects for people’s welfare should continue unless a project violates an already signed agreement, like the Indus Water Treaty, that controls the flow of river water to Pakistan and India. Therefore, it can be concluded clearly that the passing of the CPEC through the disputed territory is not the real reason for India to oppose it. In fact, there are other reasons for its opposition to the CPEC, the most important ones are discussed.
The foremost reason is that India does not want that as a consequence of getting CPEC related economic benefits, Pakistan should become an economically strong and self-reliant country. It is a well-known fact that India wants to establish its hegemony in South Asia, and while other states being much smaller and less resourced cannot resist its hegemony-oriented regional politics, it is only Pakistan that does not want any hegemony in the region. Hence, despite the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power, India is struggling through the propaganda and gaming to undermine Pakistan’s international prestige, its military power and future economic potential. And, India is opposing the CPEC being well aware that after its completion, this project will largely contribute to enhancing Pakistan’s economic progress.
The second reason is that India had never wanted, that Pakistan-China relations should get strengthened on a long-term basis. But the construction of the CPEC is testifying that Pakistan-China relations are solidifying for a long time to come. It implies that the economic interests of both the states have aligned and they will be pursuing coordinated policies in the future, because of which India will not be able to undermine Pakistan’s regional significance. That is why India is opposing the CPEC with the hope that it can disrupt the project and weaken the future growth of Pakistan-China relations. In this context, apart from opposing the project diplomatically, India is also using Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan, particularly the province of Balochistan to harm Chinese citizens working on the CPEC and discourage China to carry on with the project. In this regard, Pakistan needs to remain vigilant all the time.
Another important reason for India opposing the CPEC is that because of the strategically strengthened relations between Pakistan and China, India is failing to implement its plan of isolating Pakistan internationally by blaming it for supporting terrorism in the region. In this regard, India was encouraged to blame Pakistan for terrorism to undermine the freedom struggle of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, especially when India signed an agreement on strategic partnership and the nuclear deal with the US. Nevertheless, because of the CPEC becoming a reality, due to Pakistan-China’s deepened relations and in view of the fact that many countries of Asia, including Russia, Iran, Turkey and Indonesia and European countries are interested to join the CPEC, India is also failing to isolate Pakistan. That is the reason that India is still attempting to fulfil its wishful thinking of disrupting the CPEC, in which it will go bad. To become economically and strategically a strong country, Pakistan should focus on the construction of the CPEC and its completion on the scheduled time.