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

INDIA TALKS TOUGH ON INDUS WATER TREATY: BUT WAHT ABOUT CHINA?

Prime minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting of concerned ministries and departments to review the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan. The meeting will ponder over the treaty post Uri attack circumstances to see if India can continue with it or the 56 years old treaty now needs changes.

Which way the government is thinking can be gauged from the reaction of Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry. He said that such treaties require ‘mutual trust and cooperation and can never be one-sided’.

But can the Modi government take some tough decision?

It is well known that the Indus Water Treat is one-sided, heavily skewed in favour of Pakistan. Rivers of the Indus Basin originate in India but according to the treaty, 80% of the Indus water is reserved for Pakistan and 90% of Pakistan’s irrigated area is dependent on it. When we talk of the catchment area of the Indus river, if Pakistan has its 47% area, India is not far behind with 39% of the land falling under its territory.

In India, especially in Jammu & Kashmir, the state that is directly affected from the arrangements made under any such treaty, demands have been consistently raised on abrogating the treaty. And now after the Uri attack, that demand is back again, this time now to correct this historical anomaly to use it as a potent tool to encircle and give a befitting reply to Pakistan. Now, if India, indeed, raises this demand tomorrow, Pakistan will be in deep trouble. If India stops the Indus flow to Pakistan or starts controlling and regulating it on a fair share basis, it will left a big area of Pakistan barren.

But India will have to face tough international pressure in doing so. The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan was brokered by the World Bank and India and Pakistan have been approaching international arbitration tribunals in case of disputes. But even if we assume that India will get everyone onboard, what about China, especially when China is fully capable of doing something similar with us.

Brahmaputra river water has been a source of consistent discord between India and China. China can pose a big threat if it decides to divert the Brahmaputra water away from India to its arid north and north-western parts where 37% of its population has just 7% of water resources available. Brahmaputra originates in China and flows for quite long before entering India and then to Bangladesh. If China does so, it will create a grave existential threat for the north-eastern states of India as Brahmaputra river is like a lifeline here and for a big part of Bangladesh.

Going by the past precedents and China’s traditional anti-India stand, which can go to any extent to see India in trouble, especially when it concerns its so-called all-weather friend and ally Pakistan, China can certainly do something like this.

©SantoshChaubey