China and Pakistan participated in the fifth round of Russia-sponsored talks on Afghanistan. China handed over third patrol ship to Pakistan for maritime security purposes. Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has said that all the proposed nine industrial zone under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be completed in a period of two to three years. National Security Advisor Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua conditioned India’s inclusion in the CPEC to the resolution of Kashmir issue.
To discuss the possible solutions to the long-drawn Afghan war, the fifth round of Russia-sponsored talks on Afghanistan was held in Moscow on Friday. Twelve countries including Russia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran and six of the Central Asian countries participated in the conference. Despite the fact that major stake-holders of stability in Afghanistan were present, the huddle was overshadowed by two important developments. First the United States (U.S.) snubbed the invitation for talks saying “[I]t (the talks) seemed to be a unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region that we felt wasn’t constructive at this time.”[i] The conference took place one day after the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province to target an Islamic State bunker.[ii] Such measures on the part of the U.S. will stoke further skepticism into the minds of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan who have – at times – seriously questioned Washington’s Afghan policies.
Maritime Patrol Ship:
China handed over a 600-ton patrol ship to Pakistan for maritime security purposes. In fact, the ship is just the third of its kind provided by China and built by China Shipbuilding Trading Company Ltd. and China State Shipbuilding Corporation Xijiang Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.[iii] These ships are key to enhancing collaboration between the two countries on one hand, and on the other, they will play major role in the protection of Pakistan’s maritime trade and activities. As China has started investing billions of dollars in the construction of CPEC – “the flagship project” of its Belt and Road Initiative – it has started taking keen interest in both the territorial as well as the maritime security of Pakistan. At strategic level, provision of such ships and technology is indispensable: India has shown serious reservations in China’s developing of the Gwadar port.
9 Industrial Zones:
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has said that all the proposed nine industrial zone under the CPEC would be completed in a period of two to three years.[iv] He said that “[T]o take advantage of Pakistan’s natural resources, economic zones will be established under CPEC, one each in all the four provinces, FATA, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and two by the Federal Government in Islamabad Capital Territory and Port Qasim at Karachi.”[v] The establishment of these industrial zones, which constitute important part of the CPEC, were approved by the sixth Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC last year. Although, Pakistan will gain much economic boost from these zones, there are some serious issues surrounding the projection of these industrial areas. Lack of transparency and details about terms and conditions related to such zones have befuddled analysts and economists. Then there is the issue that compared to local firms, Chinese companies will get highly favourable treatment under and access to these economic hubs.
Resolving Kashmir Issue:
National Security Advisor Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua conditioned India’s inclusion in the CPEC to the resolution of Kashmir issue. He said “[I]f India wants to become part the corridor, it must first step forward and resolve Kashmir issue.”[vi] It shows a major shift from the earlier statement when last year Commander, Southern Command, Lt-Gen Aamir Riaz advised India to share the fruits of future development by joining the CPEC instead of employing subversive activities against Pakistan.[vii] Any such offer by Pakistan has little attraction for New Delhi which has shown deep strategic reservations and territorial claims against the project. On its part, Pakistan’s military has clarified once more that Kashmir comes before anything else when it comes to relations between Pakistan and India.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that “Pakistan deeply appreciates China’s commitment to the realisation of CPEC.”[viii]
This report is compiled and written by Abdur Rehman Shah, Research Associate at the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad. He tweets @abdur_shah
[i] Our Correspondent. (2017, April 15). US stays away from Afghan talks, terms it Russian bid for influence. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from http://epaper.dawn.com/print-textview.php?StoryImage=15_04_2017_015_008
[ii] PTI. (2017, April 14). India, Pakistan, China, Russia discuss Afghanistan situation. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-pakistan-china-russia-discuss-afghanistan-situation/story-MIrkP5IFUUOTGq40jGj6GJ.html
[iii] Web Desk. (2017, April 15). CPEC: China delivers third maritime patrol ship to Pakistan. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/198774-CPEC-China-delivers-third-maritime-patrol-ship-to-Pakistan
[iv] Arshad, Muhammad, (2017, April 14). 9 Industrial zones to be set up under CPEC in 3 years. Retrieved on April 14, 2017, from http://pakobserver.net/9-industrial-zones-set-cpec-3-years/
[v] Web Desk. (2017, April 13). Nine industrial zones to be set up in three years under CPEC: minister. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from https://arynews.tv/en/nine-industrial-zones-to-be-set-up-in-three-years-under-cpec-minister/
[vi] Qamar, Saadia. (2017, April 15). India ‘must address Kashmir issue to become part of CPEC. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from https://tribune.com.pk/story/1384233/india-must-address-kashmir-issue-become-part-cpec/
[vii] Shahid, Saleem. (2016, December 22). India urged to shun subversive activities. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from https://www.dawn.com/news/1303612/india-urged-to-shun-subversive-activities
[viii] News Desk. (2017, April 14). PM Nawaz appreciates China’s commitment for realisation of CPEC. Retrieved on April 17, 2017, from https://tribune.com.pk/story/1383920/pm-nawaz-appreciates-chinas-commitment-realisation-cpec/