China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) carries immense geopolitical and geostrategic importance not only for Pakistan but for the entire region. It envisages the development of a transportation network, energy pipelines, special economic zones and Gwadar Port in Pakistan. It is a key component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a project that seeks to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and sea-based 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to boost regional connectivity for economic uplift and trade. Undoubtedly, CPEC has the potential to kick-start the economic recovery of Pakistan. That is why it is considered an economic game-changer for Pakistan. CPEC can usher Pakistan into an era of progress and prosperity.
Keeping in view the realist paradigm of power maximization, the ever-growing strong relationship between Pakistan and China is viewed with concern by India. It has raised significant alarm bells in Indian political and military circles. India’s opposition to CPEC is largely due to the alleged apprehensions it maintains. Firstly, CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, the so-called disputed territory for India. To the detriment of India, CPEC has the potential to consolidate that region’s perception as an internationally recognised Pakistani territory, thereby diminishing India’s claim upon it. Secondly, CPEC has enormous capability to give strategic economic advantage to Pakistan and China once it materializes and extends to other regional countries.
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How does India see the CPEC project?
Furthermore, India considers CPEC as a part of renewed String of Pearls strategy that refers to the Chinese military and commercial build-up in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) encircling India. Once CPEC matures, India fears it will lead to massive growth and influence of Pakistani and Chinese navies in the region. With the potential of Gwadar Port becoming a major Chinese naval outpost, the economic and energy security of India might be threatened in case of any major conflict or so. Ever since the project got underway, India has since tried to oppose it through direct and indirect means.
What can be more convincing of Indian designs against CPEC than the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav by the Pakistani military for espionage and abetting terror in Balochistan. The admission of strengthening separatist movements in Balochistan and Karachi by the arrested former Commander of Indian Navy at the behest of RAW speaks about the proxy war being waged to destabilize Pakistan and sabotage CPEC. Not only that, India has raised a state-sponsored militia of 700 militants under the supervision of RAW to trigger a wave of terrorism and insurgency in Balochistan as revealed in a dossier presented by DG ISPR. For that purpose, $60 million has been allocated. Similarly, a separate anti-CPEC Cell has also been created with an estimated worth of $500 million under the direct supervision of RAW and Indian PM Narendra Modi which aims to disrupt CPEC projects.
India has been patronizing separatist and terrorist outfits in Balochistan by covertly supplying them with money, ammunition and explosive devices. Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Balochistan Republic Army (BRA) are tools of Indian designs against CPEC. The barbaric attack on PC Gwadar and Quetta Serena Hotel carried out by BLA is a demonstration of how far the Indian government can go.
Was India behind the Dasu Bus attacks?
Similarly, in the recent wave of terrorist incidents, the security of Chinese workers working on various CPEC-related projects has been compromised. Dasu Bus Attack is worth mentioning here which killed 9 Chinese engineers working on Dasu Hydropower Plant in KPK. Such attacks are an attempt to disrupt the working of CPEC and sabotage Sino-Pak relations in what appears to be a full-blown proxy war against Pakistan. The subversive activities against Pakistan have been revealed by the startling revelations of EU DisinfoLab. It uncovered a massive disinformation campaign sponsored by India against Pakistan.
India has also been colluding with the US to counter CPEC. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is the first in a series of pacts signed between India and the US in this regard. Signed in 2016, the pact augments navy-to-navy cooperation between US and India by allowing for refueling and replenishing of military vessels at each other’s bases and ports. The agreement provides operational flexibility to both navies to conduct the sustained operations.
Similarly, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed in 2018 allows for providing encrypted communication systems to India by the US to improve interoperability between the militaries of both countries. Lastly, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) signed in 2020 will give access to advanced US geospatial information to India to enhance the accuracy of automated systems and the firing of weapons like drones and missiles through sharing of satellite images. It will facilitate India to keep an eye on CPEC and port facilities of Pakistan. US strategic embrace of India obviously aims to counter the increasing role of China in the region. India will continue to sabotage CPEC politically, economically and diplomatically
India is also likely to boost its aid to separatist groups in Balochistan to foment further trouble in the province. The increasing hostility of India towards CPEC is a part of the larger Indian design to contain the rise of China and see Pakistan as a weaker state. Pakistan must prepare itself to maneuver in the fast-changing geopolitical landscape of the region by playing its cards correctly to reap full dividends out of CPEC.
Mominyar Khalid Butt is a Research Officer at Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCE), Pakistan Navy War College Lahore. He has done M.Phil in Political Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy