India is a major regional player in Asia and has used this to play as a puppet of the US to counter Chinese influence in the region. On the other hand, China and India have a strong economic relation as the trade between the two nations is assessed at $70 billion. Yet talking during Raisina Dialogue 2020 in January, Indian Naval Chief Admiral Karambir Singh asserted that the China-Pak Economic Corridor encroaches on India’s sovereignty.
The approach of the Indian think tank towards the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not an exception.
Outburst of opposition against China-Pak Economic Corridor
There has been an outburst of opposition against CPEC, which is the flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal-oriented Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Indian government additionally censures CPEC in light of the fact that it considers Sino-Pakistani collaboration a threat. Be that as it may, the Indian opposition to CPEC on these two focuses doesn’t hold ground.
There are two significant reasons that drive the Indian resistance to the US$50 billion CPEC project. The main explanation is that the economic corridor goes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan, which was liberated as a part of Kashmir at the time of Partition.
Since Kashmir is a universally accepted dispute between India and Pakistan, India stakes a claim on Gilgit-Baltistan. In view of this rationale, India contends that an economic corridor between Pakistan and China is going through Indian-claimed territory disregards India’s sovereignty.
The case of Gilgit-Baltistan
In July 2018, S Jaishankar, then foreign secretary of India, told Chinese officials in Beijing that “CPEC violates Indian sovereignty because it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” India fears that when CPEC corridor successfully begins working through Gilgit-Baltistan, it will internationalize the Kashmir debate.
New Delhi has verifiably magnified this chance, demanding that the region is a respective issue among India and Pakistan. This position depends on the contention that the whole Kashmir area, including Gilgit-Baltistan, is Indian territory.
Historically, after Partition, Kashmir state sent its senator to Gilgit to take control of the region, yet the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary power, did not acknowledge the authority of the Kashmiri Maharaja. Only a few days after Kashmir’s forced illegal accession to India, the Gilgit Scouts rebelled against the senator and solicited Pakistan to take control of the region.
So, in historical terms, the nature of dispute over Gilgit-Baltistan is totally not the same as that with respect to the Jammu and Kashmir regions. Subsequently India can’t claim Gilgit-Baltistan on the same logic on which they claim Azad Jammu & Kashmir. India’s case on Gilgit-Baltistan can only be vindicated if Kashmir’s accession to India is confirmed as legitimate by the United Nations.
In addition, regardless of the historical context regarding Gilgit-Baltistan, this region has been administered and managed by Pakistan throughout the previous 73 years. Pakistan has made it a semi-autonomous governmentally controlled area, which for all practical reasons is part of Pakistan.
Truth be told, the previously existing Karakoram Highway, which interfaces Pakistan with China, goes through the same region. Pakistan has refrained from including Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as official territory of Pakistan to maintain UN resolutions on the dispute.
Besides, last August, India unilaterally altered the geographic game plan in Indian occupied Kashmir despite it being a contested region. By this rationale, how might it question any progression taken by Azad Jammu & Kashmir? Consequently, there is no just cause for the Indian case that CPEC disregards its “sway” in Gilgit-Baltistan.
China-Pak Economic Corridor as ‘Counterbalance’
The second reason for India’s opposition to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the fear that it is being used by China to counterbalance the economic growth of India. Pakistan’s economy was battling in 2015 when Beijing consented to the CPEC arrangement with Islamabad. CPEC has so far helped the Pakistani economy by increasing energy production and paving the path for additional outside venture.
Therefore, it is unfortunate that India may see CPEC as an attempt by China to prop up Pakistan against India. This hypothesis is additionally bolstered by the way that India is responsive of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor under BRI yet opposes CPEC.
Accordingly, India’s opposition to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can be seen in a Pakistan-centric angle and not an overall resistance to the more extensive Belt and Road Initiative.
Neither Pakistan nor China has indicated any express aims to counter India using CPEC. Besides, Pakistan likewise has a sovereign option to settle on bargains and enter deals with different nations for its monetary advantages regardless of whether they are liked by India or not. Be that as it may, CPEC in no way, shape or form demonstrates antagonism toward India.
Moreover, the Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan is the backbone of CPEC. Pakistan intends to make Gwadar a territorial business hub with the assistance of China. To counter the achievement of Gwadar Port, India put resources into Chabahar Port in Iran that is only 175 kilometers from Gwadar.
India has invested $100 million in Chabahar and as per Indian media reports, the main clear explanation was to counter the accomplishment of Gwadar Port. India began putting resources into Chabahar in 2016, only a year after the CPEC projects were agreed upon. It would be a too big coincidence if India began putting resources into a port only 175km from Gwadar if it had no intention to counter China-Pak Economic Corridor.
Chabahar could have been a strategic competitior of Gwadar, however the appointment of Donald Trump as leader of the United States changed the circumstances. The Trump organization re-imposed sanctions on Iran, which turned out to be progressively hard for India to continue investing into Chabahar.
Therefore, Gwadar Port’s importance increased, and it even began serving Afghan transit trade, which would have been a customer of Chabahar Port if the US government had not forced sanctions.
The Chabahar situation uncovers that it was India that was behind this key move to counter China-Pak Economic Corridor, yet it didn’t work. Similarly, as India has the option to settle on autonomous venture choices like that including Chabahar, Pakistan can do likewise with CPEC. Be that as it may, the Chabahar speculation is where India made an endeavor regarded antagonistic by Pakistan and China against CPEC, yet so far it has not worked out.
Daniyal Talat holds a Masters degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. He can be reached at Daniyal.firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.