China has said that the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) did not affect its position on the Kashmir issue. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has for the first time supported China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI). China and Pakistan agreed to enhance military cooperation between the two countries. China plans to increase the size of its marine corps from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel to protect its growing interests overseas. Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, has rejected the criticism on Chinese investment in Pakistan as ‘unjust.’ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has prepared a list of nine projects for inclusion in the CPEC.
China’s Position on Kashmir:
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the development of CPEC did not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue. While explaining Beijing’s position on the news that Pakistan was going to declare the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region as a province, she said that “[A]s a leftover issue from history between India and Pakistan, it (Kashmir issue) needs to be properly settled through dialogue and consultation between the two sides.” Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzad had told Geo TV that a committee led by the Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving the status of a province to GB. On the other hand, India has strongly opposed any such move as it has always maintained that GB – like Pakistan-held Kashmir- is an integral part of India. As China has started investing billions of dollars in the CPEC that traverses the GB region, Pakistan has been mulling the idea of mainstreaming the region so as to be in better position to counter the Indian claims. For now, it seems that Indian assertions about GB have gained little traction with Pakistan and China who have been proactively engaged in carrying out work on the corridor in GB region.
UN Support for BRI:
China’s BRI has for the first time earned the support of UNSC. A UNSC resolution that was passed on Friday says international efforts should be strengthened to implement the BRI. While reacting to the development, China’s permanent representative to the UN, Liu Jieyi, told reporters that the “Chinese concept was put into security Council resolution for the first time on Friday, thus showing the consensus of the international community on embracing the concept, and manifesting huge Chinese contributions to the global governance.” Two conclusions can drawn from the recognition of China’s BRI by the UN. First, in the post-Obama era – who on the one hand had shown deep caution about BRI and on the other hand tried to counter China’s increasing influence- Beijing is better positioned to sell the concept of modern Silk Road. More importantly, it is a diplomatic victory for China and Pakistan which will puncture the Indian strategic reservations and territorial claims against CPEC.
China and Pakistan agreed to continue and further increase military cooperation between the two countries. The development came during Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Baja’s three-day trip to China. In addition to meetings with other high security official of China, General Baja met the country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The two officials expressed satisfaction with the current pace of relations and appreciated their mutual support on important issues. On the other hand, South China Morning Post reported that China plans to increase the size of its marine corp from about 20,000 to 100,000 personnel to protect the nation’s maritime lifeline and its growing interests overseas. Among other places, some of these marines will be stationed at the Gwadar port of Pakistan that has been operated by China. At times when Beijing is flexing its muscles to expand its global economic outreach, relationship with Pakistan has become all the more important to achieve those goals.
Criticism of CPEC ‘unjust’:
Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal has rejected the criticism on Chinese investment in Pakistan as ‘unjust.’ He added that “[I]t is in Pakistan’s interest to lure the Chinese to relocate their industries along the CPEC route” which would lead to massive economic outcomes for the country. The minister was trying to respond to the criticism that has come to the fore in the aftermath of revelations that only Chinese entities and groups were entitled to privileges in the special economic zones to be established under the CPEC. Such apprehensions are worth consideration as the bilateral economic relationship of China-Pakistan has predominantly worked to the favour of Chinese. Rather than addressing the justified concerns regarding CPEC, the incumbent government, unfortunately, has adopted a cosmetic and a rather rosy approach towards the project. Outcomes of these political blunders for the country can be costly and adverse on many counts in the future.
KP government has prepared a list of nine projects for inclusion in the CPEC.
This report is compiled and written by Abdur Rehman Shah, Research Associate at the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad.