THE NEW AXIS?

India Today - - COVER STORY -

RE­WARD OF FRIEND­SHIP

A CARGO SHIP, BERTHED AT GWADAR PORT, BALOCHIS­TAN

di­men­sions, which ex­plains the Pak­istani mil­i­tary’s in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent role in its de­vel­op­ment. Its army has raised a spe­cial se­cu­rity di­vi­sion of 15,000 troops to guard projects, while Army Chief Gen­eral Raheel Sharif has made sev­eral vis­its to Bei­jing to per­son­ally guar­an­tee the safety of Chi­nese per­son­nel. Pri­vately, many Chi­nese of­fi­cials see the mil­i­tary as a more favourable in­ter­locu­tor in push­ing CPEC, rather than a weak civil­ian government.

One of CPEC’s most im­por­tant projects is the upgra­da­tion of in­fra­struc­ture in Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir, start­ing with the Karako­ram High­way. In the event of a con­flict be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan, this link will al­low China to rapidly trans­port ma­te­ri­als and as­sis­tance, even if it is un­likely to in­volve its own troops di­rectly. Of­fi­cials be­lieve it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the PLA has boots on the ground in PoK, os­ten­si­bly to pro­tect Chi­nese per­son­nel. This year, China and Pak­istan have for the first time be­gun joint pa­trols in ar­eas bordering PoK and Xin­jiang. For Pak­istan, China is the best bet to fill the void left by de­clin­ing Amer­i­can eco­nomic and mil­i­tary sup­port. While China is un­likely to “back­fill US fi­nan­cial sup­port like-for-like”, says Small of the Ger­man Marshall Fund, “the com­mit­ments of loans, investments and even some grants will still be there on a sig­nif­i­cant scale”. “There is a far greater pre­mium be­ing placed,” he adds, “on en­sur­ing that Pak­istan isn’t eco­nom­i­cally weak­ened.”

Pak­istan, how­ever, isn’t turn­ing only to China. In 2014, Rus­sia ended a self-im­posed em­bargo on the sales of arms to Pak­istan. Last year, it sold Pak­istan four Mi-35 he­li­copter gun­ships. The sale raised eye­brows in New Delhi be­cause it marked a de­par­ture from ear­lier in­di­rect mil­i­tary sales—Rus­sia has pre­vi­ously sold the RD-93 jet en­gines for the JF-17s. The re­cent first-ever Rus­sia-Pak­istan mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ex­er­cises were held in Septem­ber, over which New Delhi lodged a strong protest with Moscow.

“Rus­sia should step away from

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.