OPIN­ION Cor­ri­dor to Pros­per­ity

The CPEC pro­ject is not looked upon with much favour by In­dia though it will spell good for the whole re­gion.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Ha­roon Jan­jua

The China Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) is a mega de­vel­op­ment pro­ject pro­posed to link Pak­istan’s south western re­gion and the Gwadar port with China’s north western re­gion of Xin­jiang. The cor­ri­dor is aimed to have a strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work across Pak­istan and Xin­jiang and it is es­ti­mated that it will be com­pleted in three years. The cor­ri­dor is be­ing de­scribed as a strate­gic game changer in the re­gion and will make Pak­istan eco­nom­i­cally much stronger.

The pro­ject has raised many con­cerns in the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment, most of which have their source in In­dia’s re­la­tions with China since the 1950s and and with Pak­istan ever since the two coun­tries be­came in­de­pen­dent in 1947. The In­dian gov­ern­ment has let its ob­jec­tions to the Cor­ri­dor be known quite openly. The CPEC will link Gil­git Baltistan to the Chi­nese Kash­gar re­gion through the Karako­ram High­way and will lead into the Pak­istani main­land and down to Gwadar Port on the Ara­bian Sea.

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, dis­played his fears over CPEC dur­ing a 90-minute ses­sion with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the 7th BRICS sum­mit in Ufa, Rus­sia..

Through CPEC, China is con­tem­plat­ing to ex­ploit the rich energy and nat­u­ral re­sources of Cen­tral Asia. A United States find­ing in 2010 cal­cu­lated that Afghanistan is sit­ting on min­eral re­sources worth one tril­lion dol­lars. Some of the min­eral ores are also present in Balochis­tan on the Pak­istan side.

Bloomberg Busi­ness, in its re­view of April 1, 2015, stated, “The move rep­re­sents a shift to­ward greater eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Pak­istan and China, which have long had close se­cu­rity ties amid com­mon

dis­putes with neigh­bor­ing In­dia. The cor­ri­dor would give China ac­cess to the In­dian Ocean and lead to in­vest­ments that would help ease power short­ages that are hin­der­ing eco­nomic growth in Pak­istan.”

As in­di­cated in a de­tailed ac­count given by Feroz Hasan Khan in his book 'Eat­ing Grass', it is clear that China's as­sis­tance was ba­sic for de­vel­op­ment in Pak­istan. The re­quire­ment for cap­i­tal has been in­cluded as the pro­pel­ling el­e­ment. A few an­a­lysts have also said that the en­deavor to boost In­dia's mil­i­tary power may be the third cause be­hind Pak­istan get­ting closer to China. While China may have been of no spe­cific help in Pak­istan's two wars with In­dia, in 1965 and 1971, it has been look­ing at Pak­istan as a key player in its big­ger plan for the re­gion.

The In­dian of­fi­cial po­si­tion re­gard­ing CPEC so far is one of dis­plea­sure. It dis­ap­proves of an in­ter­na­tional high­way in­side a ter­ri­tory it claims as its own – the state of Jammu & Kash­mir. On the other hand, the Chi­nese view J&K as a dis­puted ter­ri­tory and vir­tu­ally rec­og­nizes Pak­istan’s claim on it. This is not the only fac­tor strain­ing Si­noIn­dian re­la­tions. The two Asian giants have fought a war (1962) and have had many skir­mishes over their claims on the ter­ri­tory be­tween the In­dian and Chi­nese borders.

China, a ma­jor global eco­nomic power with a strong man­u­fac­tur­ing base, caters to vir­tu­ally the en­tire world and is look­ing for de­liv­ery routes to mar­kets in the west, in Africa, West Asia and Europe and also mar­kets in Cen­tral and South Asia. It in­tends to fur­ther boost the prospects of com­merce and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and these re­gions and CPEC would be very handy in this re­spect. The CPEC stands to ben­e­fit the pop­u­la­tions of all these re­gions and will also re­vive the old silk route which ex­isted un­til the Mon­gol pe­riod.

It is true that there are se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences over dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries in the CPEC, but there are chances of an en­vi­ron­ment be­ing cre­ated that will ad­dress the is­sues, mostly eco­nomic and pro­mote trade. The CPEC pro­ject has all the po­ten­tial of bring­ing peace and eco­nomic growth to the re­gion, im­prove liv­ing stan­dards and make re­mote and far-flung re­gions ac­ces­si­ble.

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