China must heed India’s objections to CPEC

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Samuel Baid

None of the countries who participated in the China-staged Belt and Road Forum (BARF) Summit in Beijing mid-May has the same problem that India has with China relating to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. India has reservations about the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative because its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) trespasses Gilgit-Baltistan, an Indian territory currently under Pakistan’s occupation.

But in its propaganda China hides this core issue and instead talks of its opposition to India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and its vetoing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members’ decision to designate Pak Army-patronised Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, as reasons for India’s unhappiness. This is like adding insult to injury.  Pretending it really does not know the Kashmir problem, China said in the run up to the summit that this problem had nothing to do with the CPEC.  The Kashmir problem can be solved by India and Pakistan, China added.  The CPEC as its flagship project under OBOR is established on total violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  India has repeatedly told China that the CPEC was not acceptable to it.  But China always pretended it has not heard it. This arrogance was heard very loudly in Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s comment on her Indian counterpart Gopal Baglay’s statement in New Delhi in which he had said: “….. We have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative, One Belt, One Road which was later renamed as Belt and Road initiative.  We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side.”

In her angry reaction Hua asked New Delhi to explain what kind of meaningful dialogue it wants with China on the multi-billion dollar venture. In her daily press briefing she said: “Over the past four years since the project was initiated we have been holding the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits” for the Belt and Road initiative.  The truth is that China never wanted to have consultations with India on the core issue – the CPEC. This corridor will have the pivoted position in the OBOR initiative.  China fears any consultation with India, h will alienate Pakistan and doom the project and thus shatter Xi Jinping’s dream of bringing most of the world under China’s influence.  This initiative will have fraudulent basis unless China, without losing further time, reaches an understanding with India and put pressure on Pakistan to seek a No Objection Certificate (NoC) from India. Pakistan has been resisting this demand from international lending  institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) who have been approached for funding dam projects in the area of Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan seems to believe that a request or a NoC from India in respect of Gilgit-Baltistan will amount to acknowledging its sovereignty over the region. Pakistan believes that enmity with India is a must for its survival and China believes that Pakistan’s enmity with India is a must for the expansion of its influence and hegemony through Pakistan.

It is common knowledge that what binds China and Pakistan into all-weather friendship or whatever are their fear and hatred of India. China has never exhibited any sensitivity to India’s concerns. For example, in March 1963 China signed an illegal “border” agreement with Pakistan in respect of Indian territory occupied by Pakistan.  This happened a few months after the Chinese aggression against India. But this fraudulent “border” agreement as compared to the invasive launching of the CPEC, had something what appeared considerate. It was a promise to reopen this agreement once the Kashmir problem was settled.  In their arrogance and the “might-is-right” attitude the CPEC was launched without such a promise in the style of land grabbers.  It is understandable that the people of communist China have no right to know what their government is doing. But what about the people of a democratic country like Pakistan?  Here too, the people were kept equally uninformed. The people of Pakistan were told only two things: (1) once the CPEC becomes functional milk and honey will flow in the country and (2) the people must be careful about India who is trying to sabotage this project via Baluchistan. Thus, people watch indifferently the on-going repression and human rights violations in the name of providing security to the projects under CPEC in Baluchistan.

In his inaugural address to the BARF in Beijing on May 14, President Xi Jinping said China had no intention of imposing its will on others. But should we believe that ongoing quiet military crackdown on nationalists in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan is not an extension of Chinese military crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in adjoining Xinjiang to make way for the CPEC?  In the view of repressions committed by China, the CPEC cannot take off unless the people are paralysed into silent submission.  It will be naivety to believe that the Pakistan Army’s action in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan is not prompted by China.

In the next two to three decades two scenarios are likely to emerge in Pakistan: Firstly, because of China’s money might and Pakistan’s begging character the former will have tight economic and political grip over the latter so much so that China might take over from the Pakistan Army its India policy. The second scenario is the disappearance of Islam as it is practised today by fundamentalists and Islamists. The Chinese military crackdown on Uighur Muslims is China’s warning to Islamists in Pakistan.  If the CPEC goes on the track, the Pakistani generation 50 years hence will not know their country was created in the name of Islam.

In the Chinese company the Pakistanis may also learn that double talk does not pay. The Chinese know it very well that their all-weather friends In Pakistan are compulsive double talkers.  An example of this was given by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the BARF in Beijing on May 14, he said: “It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through diplomacy…….” He stressed that geo-economics must take precedence over geo-politics. But members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) who were present there must be thinking how his country sabotaged the SAARC decision for free trade and connectivity.  Pakistan does not grant transit facilities for India-Afghan trade and refuses Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.

An atmosphere is being created after the BARF summit in Beijing that by not participating there, India has missed the bus; India has isolated itself not only in South Asia even internationally etc.etc.. But the reality is succinctly brought out by Shyam Saran, one of India’s foremost China observers. Saran observes: ‘…. as long as India remains one of the most rapidly growing large economies, with an unmatched market potential, fears of missing out on the economic opportunities because of India’s absence from the BARF are not well-founded. If China limits its investments in the Indian economy because of India’s refusal to endorse the OBOR, then the loss will be China’s not India’s.’ (Looking China in the Eye, Indian Express, May 22). To conclude, in the Chinese hegemonic view of the world, there is little scope of consultations but regular threats or arrogant statements towards its neighbours or sometimes just overlooking the misdeeds committed by its all-weather friend.

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