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The Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan in the Lok Sabha said the government’s position on China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ or ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ has been clear and consistent. Government’s concerns arise in part from the fact that the inclusion of the so-called illegal ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ as a flagship project of ‘OBOR/BRI’, directly impinges on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. This so-called illegal ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ passes through parts of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh which are under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Government has conveyed its concerns to the Chinese side about their activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and has asked them to cease such activities. Further, the Government is of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms. They must follow principles of openness, transparency and financial responsibility and must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of other nations.
The CPEC is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
- The 3,000 km-long China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) consists of highways, railways, and pipelines.
- CPEC eventually aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways.
- The proposed project will be financed by heavily-subsidised loans, that will be disbursed to the Government of Pakistan by Chinese banking giants such as Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Present Stand by India on CPEC:
- New Delhi sent a clear message to Beijing that it doesn’t support CPEC. India registered its protest by boycotting the high-profile Belt and Road Forum organised by China.
- Its principal objection was that CPEC passed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
- The Ministry of External Affairs statement read: “Our position on OBOR/BRI is clear and there is no change. The so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Nevertheless, for India, PoK remains an emotional and sensitive issue.
India’s Concern over CPEC and China:
- CPEC gives China a foothold in the western Indian Ocean with the Gwadar port, located near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where Chinese warships and a submarine have surfaced.
- Access here allows China greater potential to control maritime trade in that part of the world—a vulnerable point for India, which sources more than 60% of its oil supplies from the Middle East.
- What’s more, if CPEC does resolve China’s “Malacca dilemma”—its over-reliance on the Malacca Straits for the transport of its energy resources—this would give Asia’s largest economy greater operational space to pursue unilateral interests in maritime matters to the detriment of freedom of navigation and the trade-energy security of several states in the Indian Ocean region, including India.
OBOR and CPEC seems to be primarily driven by broad geostrategic and geopolitical aim.
- CPEC will provide China strategic access to the Arabian Sea and enhance its presence in the region.
- It would enable China to wield much more powerful influence in the Indian Ocean.
- Once completed, CPEC project would mean that the Chinese presence in entire Pakistan including Pakistan Occupied Kashmir becomes all pervasive and powerful.
- The route of CPEC passes through POK and makes China an indirect stakeholder in Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan.
- OBOR is a unilateral ideational of China and there is a lack of transparency in its working. The process is not participatory and collaborative in nature.
- String of pearls:
- Under Maritime Silk Route (MSR) China is developing ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan and is trying to enlarge its influence using its economic might in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
- Thus MSR is nothing but an economic disguise to the “Strings of Pearls” Theory.China is investing a huge amount of money in India’s immediate neighbourhood and these countries tend to use the China card against India.
- Through OBOR, China is countering the strategies of India in North East region and is promoting its greater presence in North East India, part of which China claims as its own territory. This may have a security impact on India.
- Tense bilateral relations with China, deep mistrusts and India’s growing concerns over Chinese hegemonic intentions in South Asia and Indo-Pacific region make it practically unlikely that India will ever consider joining this project.
- The fact that the Chinese have begun to deploy 30,000 security personnel (Military deployment) to protect the projects along the CPEC route makes it an active player in the politics of the Indian sub-continent. Clearly, this is a case of double standards.
What the project means for India?
- India is the third party on which the CPEC impacts a lot of intangible and indirect effec
- The project goes through the disputed Pak occupied Kashmir (Gilgit- Baltistan) is a nuisance for India.
- the India-Iran alliance for a geographic connectivity with Central Asia partnering Afghanistan will continue.
- In future, some Indian regional development initiatives can use the physical development of CPEC like India’s connectivity to the Central and West Asia, Gulf region.
- If CPEC is completed not only China and Pakistan but also Afghanistan, India and Iran can benefit a lot.
CPEC and India-Pakistan Relations:
- The corridor runs through the region of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in northern Pakistan.
- This region belongs to Jammu and Kashmir, to which both India and Pakistan have asserted claims.
- The Negative Scenario
- A Pakistan economically strengthened by Chinese support would have little interest in expanding economic cooperation with India.
- Pakistan could then more forcefully place the Kashmir dispute on the foreign policy agenda, as it did intermittently in 2014/15.
- The economic and political effects of CPEC would essentially prolong the negative cycle of India-Pakistan relations.
- The Positive Scenario:
- This would have an effect on the constitutional status of the Gilgit Baltistan region in Pakistan, on the one hand, and on relations between China, Pakistan and India on the other.
- CPEC to improve Pakistan’s economic development, this could foment discontent in Gilgit-Baltistan over the growing gap between the region and other provinces.
- Contributing to improving Pakistan’s infrastructure and easing its chronic energy shortage.
- CPEC and its economic effects will also contribute to the transformation of Pakistani society and the strengthening of moderate forces
- Peaceful development in Pakistan could in turn also have a positive influence on the region, for example with regard to the situation in Afghanistan.
- Granting Gilgit-Baltistan the constitutional status of a province would codify the status quo, thus indirectly bringing the Kashmir dispute to an end.