BELT AND ROAD GOING OFF-ROAD? PAKISTAN, NEPAL AND MYANMAR CANCEL AGREEMENTS WITH CHINA

Though reports made headlines yesterday that China had stopped funding of three major China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) road projects in Pakistan citing corruption as the reason, there are more worrying signs ahead for whole One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR), also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious plan to establish global hegemony by building economic corridors linking Asia, Europe and Africa. The CPEC, a long term $75 billion project from Gwadar port in Balochistan to Kashgar China’s Xinjiang province, is just a part of it.

According to a report in Voice of America (VOA), in recent weeks, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have either put on hold or cancelled major hydroelectric projects worth $20 Billion.

Last month, Pakistan withdrew Diamer-Bhasha Dam project from the CPEC as it found the lending conditions imposed by the Chinese consortium too tough. The dam is a $14 Billion project to be built on the Indus River in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Pakistan has now decided to fund it through local resources.

The proposed Daimer-Bhasha dam is a controversial project as it lies in Gilgit-Baltistan, part of PoK that India considers its own and for that very reason, agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to fund it. India is also opposed to the CPEC for the very same reason as it passes through PoK. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that is legally India’s.

Similarly Nepal, on November 13, cancelled the agreement with a Chinese state firm for the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project citing corruption. The $2.5 Billion project was signed recklessly and shadily, Nepal said while cancelling the deal that was supposed to make it a BRI project. Nepal too, like Pakistan, is going to fund the project internally.

In case of Myanmar, the Myitsone dam project is a classic example to see China’s hegemonic designs.

The $3.6 billion dam project was financed by China. Built on the Irrawaddy River, the project was doomed from the beginning. After being in making for years, the project was suspended in September 2011 amid democratic reforms as the Burmese Junta government had taken a unilateral decision to allow the controversial project that was expected to bring cultural, environmental and sociological disaster for Myanmar and its people. The ethnic Burman majority of Myanmar is against any dam on the Irrawaddy River as it traces its roots of civilization there.

Add to it the cunning Chinese business model. The project was sold saying the electricity it would produce, 90 per cent of it would be sold to China while 10 per cent was to be given free to Myanmar. Being a power starved country, protests were held against it in Myanmar. Under pressure, China later said Myanmar was the primary market and rest was to be exported. That was when Myanmar is among the countries with lowest electrification rate and no grid structure to connect its cities and town. A World Bank report says only 33 per cent of the country’s population has an electricity connection.

And China has tried this junked project that has displaced thousands of people to leverage its position in Myanmar or we can say, to blackmail the Myanmarese government as it would have to give China back a huge compensation, or the way China wants it, i.e., “concessions on other strategic opportunities in Myanmar”, Reuters report says. The Myanmarese experience has been so bad here that the country has declared that it would not go for big hydroelectric dams in future even if it is power starved.

PUMPING MONEY THE CHINESE WAY

China is pumping huge sums of money in projects that fit in the Chinese narrative of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative albeit, at much higher interest rates. Critics of the BRI say the Chinese design is simple, lend in huge sums to the financially weaker countries in need and then blackmail them when they fail to pay back.

If the international line of credit by different organizations or countries for soft loans ranges from 0.1 per cent to 3 per cent, the Chinese lenders charge anything above 6 per cent. In 2015, Japan sanctioned a loan amount of $50 billion with interest rate of 0.1 per cent and a repayment period of 50 years for India’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor.

India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing through BRI are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

The growing consensus about Chinese designs on the BRI was aptly summed up in a Quartz analysis, “While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.”

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTANI PROPAGANDA ACCUSES INDIA OF RUNNING A CELL TO SABOTAGE CPEC

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Pakistan has long been accusing India of trying to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Top Pakistani politicians and army generals have been blaming India for staging attacks in Pakistan through its external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Obviously, all this has been without proof.

But now the Pakistani propaganda has gone a step ahead by incorporating figures like when India founded this so called anti-CPEC cell and how much fund was allocated to it. General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan, while addressing an event in Islamabad today, charged India of running a cell to disrupt the CPEC.

“RAW established a new cell with a special allocation of over $500 million in 2015 to sabotage CPEC projects in Pakistan,” a Dawn report quoted him saying. While addressing an event in Islamabad, he further said, “India’s indirect interference in Pakistan is manifested in sponsoring Tehreek-i-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), Baloch and other sub-nationalist outfits and many other terrorist groups.”

Now the world can see through such baseless allegations coming from a country that is seen as a safe haven for terrorists and is increasingly becoming isolated in the world for this very reason, especially when it is against India, the world’s largest democracy, a growing global power, both economically as well as militarily and a responsible geopolitical entity.

It is Pakistan, in fact, that has been giving shelter to India’s and the world’s most wanted like Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and is main terror exporter to India, a fact that major world powers including the US and UK have started accepting. How can the world forget that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was in hiding in Pakistan for years before he was hunted down and killed? How can Pakistan convince the world that it is not home to the Taliban and Al Qaeda factions and the Haqqani Network?

While the ruling Pakistani elite have been brazenly lying about establishing peace in their country and browbeating their propaganda to the world to tell that they have wiped out every terror outfit, the fact is, this year alone, over 450 civilians and around 200 security forces personnel have lost their lives in over 100 incidents in the country, data from South Asia Terrorism Portal shows.

WHY INDIA IS OPPOSED TO THE CPEC

China’s One Belt One Road initiative aims to de velop economic corridors in Asia, Africa and Europe, something that India is opposed to as one of such corridors, the CPEC. India is opposed to CPEC because a part of it passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir that is legally India’s. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that India considers its own.

CPEC, AN INTERNAL SECURITY NIGHTMARE FOR PAKISTAN

Pakistan sees the CPEC, a long term $75 billion project from Gwadar port in Balochistan to Kashgar China’s Xinjiang province, as the next big thing in the nation’s history that will transform it into of hub and economic activity in this part of Asia.

But the fact is, it passes through many restive regions of Pakistan including Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan and terrorists groups that are hostile to China, including TTP and Al Qaeda, have threatened to attack Chinese investments in the corridor to avenge the so-called atrocities against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Then there are ethnic people of areas the CPEC passes through who are opposed to it. A combine of religious groups in Gilgit Baltistan has demanded the complete removal of Pakistan’s Army from its soil.

Baloch people, who are fighting the Pakistani establishment for their freedom and have long been accusing Pakistan of exploiting their province, see the CPEC as yet another tool to exploit the Baloch people. Baloch nationalists blame Pakistan for forcefully acceding their province. Pakistani security forces are alleged to have killed thousands of Baloch people. Reports of rape, torture and disappearances are common. Baloch people say they are ethnically different from Pakistanis and are demanding freedom or autonomy to decide their own affairs.

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 2013.

©SantoshChaubey

RUSSIA REFUTES PAKISTAN’S CLAIMS THAT IT IS JOINING CPEC

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is a bit modified and extended.

Russia has rubbished Pakistan’s claims that it has requested to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

According to the Russian news agency TASS, the Russian Foreign Ministry has not initiated any negotiation on joining CPEC, the $46 billion mega project that Pakistan sees as the next big thing in the nation’s history that will transform it into a hub a regional and economic activity in this part of Asia.

In a flat denial that highlighted ‘secret talks’, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Reports on the ‘secret talks’ between Russia and Pakistan on implementing the projects within the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that have appeared in the Pakistani media are not true. The TASS report added that any possibility of Russia’s involvement to this initiative has not been discussed with Islamabad.

Pakistan recently accepted Russia’s request to use Gwadar port for its exports. And today’s clarification by Russia says it was limited to the use of Gwadar port as a strategic trade stopover only. That means all the big talks in the Pakistani establishment and media about Russia joining CPEC were nothing but cooked up propaganda stories.

Perhaps, the Pakistani media reports follow the claims of its prime minister and president. Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, during his Turkmenistan visit last week, had claimed that may countries including Russia had shown willingness to join CPEC and he welcomed the Russian initiative. His words were echoed by the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain who said that the Russian interest showed significance of the project. Reiterating the Pakistani establishment’s version, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria yesterday said that ‘Russia had shown a keen interest to boost its relations with Pakistan’.

Pakistani media had picked up these clues and had widely reported on Russia joining CPEC. A report in The Nation went on to the extent to claim that Alexander Bogdanov, Federal Security Services chief, had made a secret visit to Pakistan, the first visit by any Russian intelligence chief in 14 years, during which he had forwarded the Russian request to join CPEC. Interestingly, according to The Nation report, the Russian request was accepted and the Gwadar Port permission was given under this only. Geo News in its coverage said that after the Gwadar Port access, Russia also wanted to join the CPEC to ‘reap the maximum dividends’.

All those claims, by Pakistani leaders as well as by its media, proved a bunch of lies today. Russia is India’s oldest defence partner and was also the largest one, when seen on annual trade figures, until it was overtake by the US in 2014. Now with big defence deals signed between Russia and India during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s India visit in October 2016, Russia is there again and it would never want to lose the big opportunity that India’s $100 billion defence upgade provides.

India is opposed to CPEC because a part of it passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that India considers its own. Prime minister Narendra Modi has conveyed these concerns to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINA’S CONCERNS OVER CPEC!

“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.”

©SantoshChaubey