In a landmark development, China’s leader Xi Jinping further pushed the OBOR global infrastructure initiative when the Communist Party of China (CPC) Congress passed an amendment to the party constitution to specifically mention the plan last year. The much-debated China Pakistan economic corridor is also a part of the same massive project, “One Belt One Road” (OBOR), proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The Chinese President announced his multi-billion dollar dream project as soon as he took office.
OBOR is China’s ambitious project in order to improve connectivity and cooperation with Eurasia, including the Middle East, Africa, Europe via landlocked central Asian countries and littoral south-east Asian nations. OBOR mainly comprises of trade through land and sea. The overland project is the silk road economic belt while the sea route is called maritime silk road. The project includes highways, overland rail routes, ports, gas pipelines and other infrastructure projects in order to boost the economic growth of the country.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a $46 billion project (China’s investment in Pakistan) being implemented since 2015 when both Pakistan and China signed an agreement to construct this Economic Corridor.
CPEC connects Gwadar port in Pakistan to Kashgar in Xiang, China. It crosses the entirety of Pakistan including the contested territory of Balochistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
CPEC consists of road, railways, tunnel and airport.
The CPEC is much more important to China than to Pakistan. The key importance is China’s connectivity with the organisation of petroleum exporting countries that controls 61% of the world’s oil exports and holds 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves.
For China to buy oil from OPEC, the route needs to be very long, passing through the disputed South China Sea. Also, China needs major oil supply in the eastern part of the country which comprises 94% of the population. The western part, however, has no sea route and this comprises only 6% of the population. Therefore connectivity of western China to Gwadar and thus OPEC will not only reduce the supply route but will also enhance the business and development in western China.
Also, the addition of the OBOR initiative to its constitution by the ruling party clearly showcases the utmost geopolitical importance of CPEC to the host country.
India is opposing the CPEC on the argument that it challenges India’s territorial integrity in Kashmir as it passes through Gilgit Baltistan, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. However, India, which is also trying to emerge as a major power bloc in South Asia is certainly not in favour of increasing the strategic importance of China. India, just like China, has invested 20 billion in Iran for development of the Chabahar port. This project eases India’s connectivity not only to the Middle East but also to Afganistan. Hence, India does not want China to have control over Gwadar port (72km away from the Chabahar port).
Another reason behind India’s apprehension is the emergence and development of Pakistan. CPEC can fetch Pakistan popularity on a global level because of the massive infrastructural development it will result in, which is again an issue for India, which shares an animosity with this country that goes decades back.
USA has supported India’s stand over the Initiative.The Trump administration threw its weight behind India’s opposition to CPEC, saying it passes through disputed territory and no country should put itself into a position of dictating the Belt and Road initiative.
Pakistan, a long-term ally of China, is clearly hoping for massive economic growth and increased regional importance with this multi-million investment. This project can bring Pakistan into the global economic mainstream and enhance already upward trajectory of economic ties between the two nations.
However, CPEC passes through Balochistan which is another disputed territory in Pakistan itself. Balochistan, which comprises 44% of Pakistani territory, is fighting for its independence in the country. The Baloch citizens believe that the region, rich in minerals, has been illegally occupied by the Pakistan government. Baloch called the CPEC an “imperialist scheme,” and vowed to target the corridor.
Also, a Chinese engineer working for the initiative in the region have been attacked several times. Amid all the problems of disputed territory, the two countries are still ambitious for the prodigious initiative.
Michael Edward said, “Whenever there has been a genuinely strong central authority in China, she has always indulged in imperialist adventures.” Therefore if India wishes to emerge as a strong economic power in Asia, it should either counter or comply with China strongly, as economic initiatives like CPEC truly justify what Michael Edward opined.