China’s bullying tactics in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Government of India has objected to the CPEC project as works were taking place in a territory that belongs to India !

(Retd.) Brigadier Hemant Mahajan

1. Baloch people lost jobs; the culprit – China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The Baloch people are agitated with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Disruptive and violent acts have started in the region to oppose this project. A highway starting from Gwadar Port in Pakistan ends at Xinjiang Province in China, 4,500 kms away. More than 50% of this highway passes through Balochistan, which is the largest area in Pakistan. There are abundant natural resources in this region. China entered the region to exploit these regional natural resources. This CPEC offers no benefits to the local population; no employment opportunities or jobs. Gwadar Port is completely under Chinese control. Fishermen had their colony near the Gwadar Port. These fishermen used to fish near this Port. Now, Chinese trawlers carry out deep-sea fishing and the catch is processed and sent to China. China snatched business from these local fishermen. The Baloch people near the Port lost the only source of their livelihood.

2. Only China benefitted by developing the Gwadar Port and it employed only Chinese labour in the project

All job opportunities in this Port development project are only for the Chinese. Only a few portions of this project allow and employ local Baloch labourers. The Chinese staff is rude and insensitive. The houses and hotels in the CPEC area belong to the Chinese. Profits from the expansion of Gwadar Port go only to the Chinese ‘Dragon’ and not to the local population.

CPEC starts from Gwadar and reaches China through various Provinces of Pakistan. Workers at various mines for the excavation of numerous minerals, Hydro-electric projects or many other developmental activities are brought from China. This labour is from various prisons in China. Thus, local Baloch people are deprived of job opportunities.

3. The local population does not profit from this highway; hence, a liberation group attacks CPEC workers and various activities under the project and Pakistan deploys its military to safeguard the project

China initiated many Hydro-electric projects in the region. However, power from these projects is not distributed to the local population. Baloch people cannot use the roads in this region. A liberation group attacks the CPEC area. (This group is actively involved in trying to liberate Balochistan from Pakistan.) Many suicidal attacks have been carried out on Chinese vehicles and officers. China has expressed concern that the Baloch people may sabotage the project. This mammoth project has no beneficial impact on the lives of local people. On the insistence of China, Pakistan assigned 20 to 50 thousand soldiers for the safety of this project.

4. Baloch people started a freedom movement that opposes Chinese aggression

The Chinese staff misbehaves with the locals in the markets and other places. The Chinese staff argues and fights with the locals. Many videos of such incidents are in circulation. In one video, the Chinese staff is seen beating up a Balochi even as Pakistani soldiers turn a blind eye. All projects which are harmful for the environment (such as coal power plants) have been shifted here from China. These are polluting the Balochistan environment. All these events have resulted in the Baloch people demanding freedom from Pakistan. They do not welcome China in their Province.

The natural resources of Balochistan are being exploited, the entry of Baloch people is forbidden on highways, they are not allowed deep-sea fishing, Baloch fishermen cannot enter the sea – all these have resulted in the formation of several local groups that are fighting the Chinese aggression. These groups oppose the bullying tactics of the Chinese. Many local groups in several towns support them.

5. Pakistan is collapsing under the tremendous pressure of debts and seeking more funds

Pakistan has serious concerns regarding the CPEC. Though the corridor is now open, it is proving to be a white elephant and Pakistan is unable to support it. Neither Balochistan nor Pakistan benefit from this mega project. Pakistan is collapsing under the unbearable burden of loans, which it will not be able to repay. Pakistan is trying hard to get additional loans from the IMF or World Bank or Saudi Arabia or China. CPEC is proving to be a hazardous and expensive project for Pakistan.

CPEC has not been advantageous so far for China either. China is unable to exploit the full potential of this mega project. China along with Balochistan and Pakistan has suffered losses due to CPEC. China will have to still use it, since its investments are enormous. No doubt this may result in more agitations and resistance to oppose China.

– (Retired) Brigadier Hemant Mahajan, Pune.

What is CPEC and why is it worrisome ?

The massive infrastructure project connects China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province which has raised concerns of huge Chinese debt on Pakistan’s fledgling economy, though China has recently played down the debt concerns

Trade imbalance concerns

Chinese exports through the Karakoram Highway have entered the domestic Pakistani market, and are cheaper due to the relatively higher cost of production in Pakistan. It has also been speculated that the CPEC will replace Pakistani exports by Chinese ones in external markets.

Concerns about Baloch nationalists

Some Baloch nationalists have opposed the large-scale development projects envisioned by CPEC, fearing that such developments in the province would eventually result in local residents losing control over natural resources.

Others have alleged that CPEC is a ‘conspiracy’ meant to stimulate the settlement of migrants from other regions of Pakistan in order to render ethnic Baloch a minority in the Province.

In December 2016, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) released a report that given the rate at which Chinese nationals were migrating to Balochistan for the CPEC project, the Chinese would outnumber the Baloch people by 2048, raising concerns of marginalisation of the Baloch citizen.

Ten Chinese lost their lives and 26 hurt in a suicide attack on a bus that was carrying them to the work site of the Dasu Hydropower Project in July last year. China demanded USD 38 million compensation from Pakistan.

Indian objections to CPEC

The Government of India objected to the CPEC project as upgrade works to the Karakoram Highway were taking place in Gilgit-Baltistan, territory that belongs to India. During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in 2015, the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj told Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit-Baltistan are ‘unacceptable’ as they require construction in the claimed territory. India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also confirmed that the issue had been raised with the Chinese Government. Sushma Swaraj reiterated this stance during a meeting in August 2016 with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, stating India would ‘resolutely oppose’ the corridor in Kashmir.

But, did you know …

India did not object to Chinese construction of the Karakoram Highway, which was built between 1959 and 1979. India did not initially object to major Chinese-sponsored upgrade works to the Karakoram Highway after a 2010 earthquake, though it did object the presence of Chinese troops in the region that were sent to guard Chinese workers.

India did not object to construction of the Mangla Dam, undertaken with World Bank funding and British technical assistance in southern Kashmir – a region which belongs to India. India further did not object to construction works at the Kashmir’s Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant, under construction with Chinese assistance since 2008. In 1991, India agreed to allow the Neelum-Jhelum project to move forward, despite the project’s location in territory which India legally considers as its own.

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