Why India and the US Oppose the CPEC?
India was openly opposing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the US also joined New Delhi. In this context, on October 3, 2017, the then US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Lawmakers, “The United States has reiterated its support for India’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative…the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a part of which traverses Pakistan-Kashmir.”
Pakistan strongly rejected the statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-dollar road and rail network CPEC will pass through a disputed territory of Kashmir, urging the international community to focus on blatant human rights violations and ‘heinous crimes’ committed by Indian occupation forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and reminded America that Washington had also participated in an OBOR summit.
Earlier, a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying that the OBOR plan was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative.
In this regard, again, the Indian envoy to China Vikram Mistri told Chinese state media in March, last year that a part of the CPEC shall pass through Pakistani side of Kashmir and the OBOR or BRI does not respect India’s “concerns” of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Addressing Indian concerns, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on April 15, this year, “As for the Indian comments on not participating in the BRI [Conference] for various reasons, I’d like to say that the BRI is an open and inclusive economic cooperation initiative. It does not involve territorial and maritime disputes…Whether the Indian side will participate in the Belt and Road Forum, I think you need to ask the Indian side for a more specific answer. But here I’d like to re-emphasise that the BRI is proposed by China but it is already an international public good….The belt and road cooperation since it was first proposed…has been an open and inclusive initiative for all countries…interested in this…if the relevant side would like to wait and see, we do not oppose that. And as for more international organisations in the second BRI [Conference] meaning that some countries will lose opportunities, you may need to ask the countries themselves which do not participate in the BRI.”
It is notable that India which has consistently kept away from BRI did not participate in its second conference which was held in Beijing from April 25 to 27, 2019 and leaders of countries including heads of state and government from nearly 40 countries attended the meeting.
Pakistan’ s Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his speech at the opening ceremony called for greater attention to tackling poverty as Pakistan and China enter the next phase of the CPEC. He appreciated the significance of China’s BRI, elaborating, it “marks a new and distinct phase in the onward march of nations in the world along the path of globalization”.
However, India and the US continue opposing the CPEC. In this respect, Indian lobbies which are well-penetrated in the US administration and Europe, research centers, think tanks and so-called human rights groups utilize the media tools in defaming Pakistan internationally. Especially, Indian RAW is availing the opportunity of the US-led organized propaganda campaign against Pakistan. Now, CPEC is special target of these hostile entities.
In this connection, much coverage was given by the external media to a report, released on April 13, 2017 by Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) which is in partnership with Mahatma Gandhi International AISBL. The subject report portrayed complete Indian negative propaganda themes about the Pakistan’s provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan and Sindh. Based on falsehood, the report also said that the CPEC is breach of international law and is being implemented without consultation or compensation to the people of the area.
Undoubtedly, GB is the gateway of CPEC into Pakistan, whereby GB’s strategic and socio-economic importance has increased manifold. Like Balochistan, the region has huge potential in trade with China, tourism, minerals, gems, precious stones, agriculture-farming and hydro power production. Therefore, GB’s people who are strengthening their association with Pakistan, pays no attention to the false propaganda.
While, these US-led Western entities, particularly India who also give undue coverage to the meetings and protests against the integrity of Pakistan, are especially exaggerating the statements of those Baloch separatist leaders who have taken shelter in Europe and America, and are fulfilling the agenda of their foreign masters against the CPEC.
The reality is that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods.
When Gwadar seaport becomes fully operational, it would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. Being the commercial hub, the port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans. Gwadar project which is backbone of the CPEC will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, including developments in other provinces by providing thousands of employment opportunities, particularly to the less developed areas by redressing their grievances. The resulting prosperity in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan would damp the separatist sentiments of the people, which the hostile elements, supported by the US, India and Israeli do not want. Therefore, these entities and their media describe the CPEC in negative terms.
In fact, since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, the country has become center of American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in connivance to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these intelligence agencies which are also in collaboration with the Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS), support the militants of ISIS and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the secret strategy of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist outfits are weakening Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive activities.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad. Army and top intelligence agency ISI have broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. Peace has been restored in various regions of Pakistan, including Karachi and Balochistan province.
But, in the recent past, blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country showed that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage especially to weaken Pakistan and to damage the Pak-China project of CPEC. Foiled terror attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, 2018 was part of the same scheme. Nevertheless, CIA, RAW and Mossad are assisting the separatist elements of the Balochistan to thwart the CPEC project.
It is of particular attention that that during P.M. Imran Khan’s second trip to China, on April 28, this year, Islamabad and Beijing embarked on the new phase of the CPEC by signing memorandum of understanding-agreements on the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and socio-economic development and a new agreement on free trade. The new phase of the CPEC would be characterised by industrialization—20 factories is being set up in Rashakai, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. In view of trade being an important element of the CPEC, the two sides concluded the second stage of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) aimed at strengthening trade ties between the two countries. Under the new FTA, China would open up 90 per cent of its market for Pakistani goods whereas Pakistan would share 65pc of its market with Chinese exports. This would also help in redressing, to a certain extent, the yawning trade imbalance between the two countries, which stood at $9.7 billion last year.
The two sides also signed an agreement on a technical package for upgradation of Pakistan’s main railway line-Mail Line-One (ML-1) under which a double track from Peshawar to Karachi will be built with China’s help. China who will spend $1bn on 27 projects, help Pakistan Railways in improving its capacity.
Nonetheless, China has clarified Indian concerns on the CPEC or OBOR. But, apart from the US, India is particularly opposing the CPEC as part of the anti-Pakistan and anti-China approach.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations