CPEC – China’s Sinew for ‘Great Power’ Sta­tus

China has un­am­bigu­ously sig­nalled in re­cent times that it wants to block In­dia’s rise; not only has she been un­re­lent­ing in thwart­ing In­dia at suc­ces­sive in­ter­na­tional fo­rums, she sup­ports Pak­istan’s anti-In­dia ji­had

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

China has un­am­bigu­ously sig­nalled in re­cent times that it wants to block In­dia’s rise; not only has she been un­re­lent­ing in thwart­ing In­dia at suc­ces­sive in­ter­na­tional fo­rums, she sup­ports Pak­istan’s anti-In­dia ji­had.

IN HER QUEST FOR ‘Great Power’ sta­tus, China wants a China-cen­tric Asia and a mul­ti­po­lar world. It is al­ready go­ing full hog in in­duc­ing grav­i­ta­tional pull in Asian states to align with Chi­nese na­tional in­ter­ests. If North Korea, Laos and Cam­bo­dia are un­der Chi­nese in­flu­ence in Asia-Pa­cific, in South Asia it is Pak­istan and Sri Lanka, even as China is ex­ert­ing sim­i­lar pres­sures on Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Mal­dives. The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) is un­der­go­ing ma­jor mod­erni­sa­tion and get­ting equipped with high-tech weaponry cou­pled with rapid ca­pac­ity build­ing in cy­berspace, space, nu­clear and force pro­jec­tion. She has be­gun to dis­play mil­i­tary will and ca­pa­bil­ity to con­tain, co­erce and dis­ci­pline any ri­val.

China-Pak Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor

The China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) is 3,000-km-long run­ning along align­ment Kash­gar-Khun­jerab-Gil­git-Is­lam­abad-Balochis­tan-Gwadar, re­plete with rail and road links, pipe­lines, in­dus­trial parks and spe­cial eco­nomic zones (SEZ). There are some 100 tun­nels along the CPEC. These are in ad­di­tion to tun­nels pur­port­edly for hy­del projects be­ing dug by the Chi­nese. The rigged elec­tions in Gil­git-Baltistan dur­ing 2016 and con­tin­u­ing Pak­istani geno­cide in Balochis­tan have ag­gra­vated in­sta­bil­ity in these re­gions. There are re­ports of al­ter­na­tive align­ments for the CPEC be­ing looked into but go­ing West in the Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK) is equally dan­ger­ous if it goes close to FATA (Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas). Fac­tu­ally, Pak­istan signed its own death war­rant by ush­er­ing Wa­habism, which peaked un­der Zia-ul-Haq and fun­da­men­tal­ist Is­lam con­tin­ues to grad­u­ally de­vour Pak­istan. While China an­nounced an in­vest­ment of $46 bil­lion in the CPEC, Pak­istan has been trum­pet­ing this will cre­ate 7,00,000 jobs in Pak­istan. But whether these tall claims of 7,00,000 jobs are all for Pak­ista­nis and what jobs these will be is un­clear be­cause as per ground re­ports of the Chi­nese projects un­der­way in PoK, lo­cals are not per­mit­ted to come in their close vicin­ity. The best part of the $46 bil­lion in­vest­ment is that China ap­pears to have taken Pak­istan for a royal ride. It is also pos­si­ble that Pak­istani hi­er­ar­chy was bought over con­sid­er­ing their past record of hav­ing bought over a for­mer UN Gen­eral Assem­bly Pres­i­dent.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, a cost ben­e­fit anal­y­sis of the $46 bil­lion CPEC re­veals that the Chi­nese Govern­ment is in­vest­ing only $11 bil­lion for con­struc­tion of roads and rail links. Pak­istan is re­quired to pay 80 per cent of this in­vest­ment to China, so in ac­tual term this Chi­nese in­vest­ment will only be to the ex­tent of 20 per cent. At the mo­ment the terms of re­pay­ment are not pub­li­cised but if China is charg­ing in­ter­est and in case of de­fault re­pay­ment, China is ca­pa­ble of ex­tract­ing all $11 bil­lion re­pay­ment back from Pak­istan, if not more. The worst part for Pak­istan is that bulk of the con­struc­tion force and labour­ers are com­ing from China de­spite Pak­istan foot­ing 80 per cent or more of costs. Pak­istani army is to pro­vide se­cu­rity for the CPEC, for which nat­u­rally Pak­istan bears all costs. The bal­ance $35 bil­lion in­vest­ment is to be borne by Chi­nese pri­vate com­pa­nies are to con­struct of coal-based power plants. Here too China has scored be­cause coal for these plants will come from China un­der pre­text of less ash en­vi­ron­ment pol­lu­tion, not us­ing cheaper coal avail­able in Pak­istan. On top of this, Pak­istani con­sumers of these coal-based power plants will have to pay 27 per cent ex­tra costs for the elec­tric­ity they pur­chase.

Oper­a­tional­i­sa­tion of CPEC

On Novem­ber 13, 2016, the un­der devel­op­ment China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor be­came op­er­a­tional in the sense that the first con­voy of trucks laden with Chi­nese goods travers­ing the CPEC’s 3,000-km jour­ney from Kash­gar in China ar­rived at Gwadar and was fur­ther seen off in a Chi­nese ship from Gwadar to Mid­dle East and Africa. Pak­istan’s top civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers were re­port­edly present at Gwadar to see off the Chi­nese ship. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif stated that Pak­istan will pro­vide best pos­si­ble se­cu­rity to for­eign in­vestors to en­able them to use Gwadar for in­ter­na­tional trade. There is no deny­ing that Chi­nese in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment is very fast, be it the rail­way to Lhasa, rail line to Hari­atan on Afghanistan-Uzbek­istan bor­der (in­au­gu­rated on Septem­ber 7, 2016), One Bor­der, One Road (OBOR), com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Ti­bet, mul­ti­ple gas and oil pipe­lines, or the CPEC. Gwadar port has been de­vel­oped in record time by a Chi­nese com­pany with China bear­ing the com­plete cost for its devel­op­ment; gratis to Pak­istan. The road link from Karachi to Gwadar too was de­vel­oped speed­ily. No Pak­istani can en­ter Gwadar Port (guarded by PLA) with­out valid ID card. Pak­istan is re­spon­si­ble for the se­cu­rity of the CPEC with all costs to be borne by Pak­istan. Pak­istan has raised ad­di­tional forces for specif­i­cally guard­ing the CPEC, with ma­jor por­tion of this spe­cial se­cu­rity force de­ployed in Balochis­tan.

China’s Strate­gic Agenda

As per an­a­lysts, eco­nom­i­cally it is 11 times cheaper to trans­port the same goods by sea even to and from China than through the CPEC, even though the sea jour­ney is longer. Of course, the CPEC is sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ative to the Malacca Dilemma of China should the Strait of Malacca get choked. The ques­tion here is whether the Malacca Dilemma is cre­ated by China on pur­pose and hyped for the con­sump­tion of the Chi­nese peo­ple? If China’s in­ten­tions are ‘peace­ful’ as bandied per­pet­u­ally and the world is for free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and global com­mons, un­der what cir­cum­stances would the Strait of Malacca, and even Sunda Straits, be blocked for Chi­nese com­mer­cial ships and navy, and for what du­ra­tion? Be­sides, how the block­ing of these straits, es­pe­cially the Strait of Malacca will ad­versely im­pact in­ter­na­tional trade of most coun­tries of the world is another is­sue. A closer ex­am­i­na­tion would in­di­cate that such even­tu­al­ity is highly un­likely, even with the In­dian Ocean be­com­ing the cen­tre of grav­ity of fu­ture con­flict, given the lethal­ity and reach of mod­ern era weaponry.

High­way of Ter­ror

His­tory is re­plete with China’s ob­ses­sion for cre­at­ing ‘depth’ to what­ever she con­sid­ers vi­tal for her in strate­gic terms. Im­me­di­ately, on oust­ing the Kuom­intang regime, Mao Ze­dong an­nounced, “Ti­bet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fin­gers”. Ti­bet was an­nexed by China also be­cause it com­prises 26 per cent land of China, is the heart­land, and is the wa­ter tower. Xin­jiang and In­ner Mon­go­lia were cap­tured to give buf­fer to the main­land. China cap­tured 38,000 sq km of the state of J&K to give ad­e­quate depth to its West­ern High­way. Go­ing by the same anal­ogy, what would be the Chi­nese strat­egy for pro­vid­ing ‘depth’ to the CPEC run­ning north-south through Pak­istan which it­self is ob­sessed about strate­gic depth. More­over, the CPEC is run­ning through Gil­git-Baltistan that is af­flicted with pub­lic dis­sat­is­fac­tion and shift­ing it west is not pos­si­ble be­cause of the highly volatile FATA re­gion. But most of the CPEC can’t avoid Baluchis­tan where in­sur­gency sim­mers be­cause of Pak­istani geno­cide. While the CPEC can be­come sub­ject to ter­ror at­tacks, China-Pak­istan are pro­vid­ing depth to the CPEC in­di­rectly by pro­ject­ing more ter­ror into In­dia and Afghanistan through sub­con­ven­tional op­er­a­tions. China has deep links with Tal­iban, Pak­istan has hold on both Tal­iban through the Haqqani net­work, ISIS in Af-Pak is the cre­ation of Pak­istan, and most im­por­tantly all Pak­istani prox­ies also are Chi­nese prox­ies. That is why with the strate­gic though covert lodge­ment of PLA in PoK and Pak­istan, ter­ror at­tacks in Afghanistan and vi­o­lence in J&K in­clud­ing cease­fire vi­o­la­tions by Pak­istan have shot up ex­po­nen­tially.

Pak­istani ob­jec­tive of carv­ing out more Afghan ter­ri­tory as strate­gic depth (im­ply­ing more in­flu­ence at sub­con­ven­tional level) is in sync with China’s strate­gic de­signs. Pak­istan’s grow­ing hos­til­ity to­wards In­dia suits China sim­i­larly.

Im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia

The CPEC run­ning close to the line of con­trol (LoC) and In­dia-Pak in­ter­na­tional bor­der has strate­gic im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia. The lodge­ment of PLA in PoK and tun­nel­ing for de­ploy­ment of strate­gic weapons are de­vel­op­ments that im­pinge on se­cu­rity of the re­gion, as does the Chi­nese naval de­ploy­ment in Gwadar. The Chi­nese ob­jec­tive is quite clear — box In­dia within South Asia. Both China and Pak­istan have been call­ing for In­dia to join the CPEC, which ac­tu­ally is a trap. In­dia should never join the CPEC be­cause: one, it does not give land ac­cess to In­dia to Afghanistan and Cen­tral Asia through Pak­istan, which In­dia has al­ways wanted; two, it may in­crease In­dia-China trade but with the ex­ist­ing bi­lat­eral im­bal­ance heav­ily in favour of China (ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in Par­lia­ment, it stood at close to $45 bil­lion in 2015-16 with In­dia’s ex­ports amount­ing to only around $8 bil­lion), it would re­sult in in­creased im­bal­ance man­i­fold.

Con­clu­sion

China’s ex­ces­sive trum­pet­ing of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) for ‘de­vel­op­ing the re­gions’ through which OBOR passes be­lies the fact that it has lit­tle money in her kitty for such mas­sive projects, what with her out­stand­ing debt, in­ter­ests re­pay­ment and state of global mar­ket. But at the same time, some 800 Chi­nese com­pa­nies are ready to in­vest and pro­vide em­ploy­ment to mil­lions of Chi­nese wait­ing in the wings — all at the cost the coun­try host­ing OBOR. How­ever, if the strate­gic US-China com­pe­ti­tion on wa­ter is be­ing played out in the South China Sea (SCS), on land this could well un­fold in the Af-Pak re­gion at the sub­con­ven­tional level. In­dian pol­icy mak­ers need to work in close con­cert with US, Afghanistan and other strate­gic part­ners in or­der to se­cure own na­tional in­ter­ests.

MAP: CPEC

High­ways net­work of CEPC

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