On Saturday, Islamabad rejected Washington’s objection raised over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying that CPEC is a development and connectivity project for the betterment of people of the region and beyond, which doesn’t threat either India or Afghanistan.
Islamabad urged the US and the international community to rather focus on ethnic-cleansing of Muslim-majority in Indian-held Kashmir.
India is the only regional power which wants to kill the CPEC initiative for the following fears.
- India fears that CPEC may result in internationalization of the Kashmir dispute, and China with its tremendous influence both in Asia and in the international community would eventually push for the 1949 UNSC Resolution 47 – saying that “the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.”
- India is concerned over China’s military presence in the Indian Ocean. The CPEC project will enable China to get direct access to the Arabian Sea, which could embolden the Chinese to substantially step up their military presence there, something that India views as an existential threat.
- India is worried that China is planning to use the Gwadar port to monitor India’s naval activity and allegedly even exploit it to expand and improve its own navy. However, China’s naval power is already almost 4-times stronger than India’s (714 vs 295 of fleet strength).
- India is also worried that CPEC will bring economic prosperity and growth for Pakistan, which many leaders of India’s ruling BJP still consider part of Hindu-dominated India.
Trump administration, as expected, has sided with its Hindu ally over the CPEC project.
The US$56 billion CPEC passes through Pakistan’s northern part (Gilgit and Baltistan) which India claims to be part of disputed Jammu and Kashmir state – 67% of which it annexed in 1960s. Gilgit and Baltistan has great strategic importance for both Pakistan and China as without it Pakistan’s second port Gwadar in Balochistan province is a dead horse.
For China, Gwadar is the year-round trading route to the Middle Eastern countries and beyond. It will also help China to reduce cost of its oil import from Qatar and Iran. Gwadar, overlooking the Gulf of Oman is a short route to Iran’s Chabahar port. Last year India offered to invest US$500 million towards construction of Chabahar port.
So far 52 countries including Turkey, Iran, Australia, Russia, France and Britain have shown their interest in joining CPEC.