“The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic of Sino-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the CPEC in the short term, but the increasing cost of security is becoming a big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects.”
This is what a piece in the Global Times, official mouth organ of China’s ruling party says.
The piece clearly talks about the need to look for the Southeast Asian opportunity with a gradual shift from CPEC to Southeast Asia. It says, “Beijing should consider giving more attention to its economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. The CPEC has long been seen as a flagship project in China’s Belt and Road initiative, but the initiative’s strategic focus may need to shift gradually toward Southeast Asia, where there is a wide infrastructure funding gap but a relatively stable regional environment that will enable China to efficiently push forward ventures under the Belt and Road initiative.”
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, a long term $75 billion project from Gwadar port in Balochistan to Kashgar China’s Xinjiang province, passes though many restive regions of Pakistan including Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan.
Many terrorists groups including TTP and Al Qaeda have threatened to attack the Chinese investments in the corridor to avenge the so-called atrocities against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province. A combine of religious groups in Gilgit Baltistan has demanded the complete removal of Pakistan’s Army from its soil. All other states than Punjab, through which the corridor passes, are alleging that the project has been conceived in a way so as to benefit the Punjab province only.
Add to it the international pressure that is expected to mount in the coming days with India’s proactive instance on Balochistan and PoK now, especially after Pakistan’s backstabbing. Narendra Modi gave Pakistan ample chances to mend its ways and stop exporting terror in Jammu & Kashmir but Pakistan didn’t reciprocate and kept on fuelling terror and tension in the state.
Balochistan has an active independence movement ongoing and the stories of Pakistan’s atrocities to crush it are slowly emerging, especially after Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, specifically mentioned in his Independence Day speech on August 15 that India will support the Baloch Movement and will highlight the Pak atrocities and human rights violations there. India, in fact, has raised Balochistan human rights violations at UN Human Rights Council.
Simultaneously, for PoK, India has now made it clear that if Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, then it is only about PoK and the whole state of J&K, including PoK and Gilgit and Baltistan is integral part of India. India, in fact, has requested China to desist from establishing any CPEC project in PoK that is a disputed territory and in forced Pakistani control.
So, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not going to have a stable regional environment in its large territory, something that is a must for businesses to establish, survive and grow. That is the underlying theme of this article that we can say represents the official Chinese position here. The world knows nothing can appear in the Chinese media unless it is cleared by the Chinese power elite and lawmakers.
How bad is the security scenario in the CPEC regions also reflects in the fact that Pakistan has raised a Special Security Division (SSD) of 15000 soldiers to protect some 7000 Chinese individuals and CPEC installations that are coming up. This is when the project has just begun. The CPEC was proposed in 2013 and an agreement between Pakistan and China was signed in May this year. The security nightmare is only expected to grow as the CPEC spreads in more restive regions.
The Global Times article sums it up logically, “It is unlikely to be plain sailing for China and Pakistan in their attempts to push forward the CPEC due to challenges such as a complex regional environment, and people in the two countries should be prepared for potential setbacks.”