(Image Credit: PTI)
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the cornerstone of China’s One Belt One Road global vision of infrastructure connectivity and its conception of 21st century multi-polarity. It would not be an exaggeration to state that it’s one of the most significant game-changing endeavors to ever be attempted in the contemporary times.
The economic pull of CPEC works as an irresistible magnet to exploit its infrastructural connectivity in stimulating the trade objectives, whether it’s furthering bilateral trade with China such as the European Union (EU), Mideast, and African states may naturally be interested in, or in procuring a expedient outlet to the Indian Ocean such as what Russia and the Central Asian republics desire.
However, India decided to stay away from CPEC so far and is seeing it as an intimidation or encirclement of its geostrategic interests. It also did not attend the recent ‘Belt and Road Summit’ held in China.
So why is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor such a challenge to India?
Conventional wisdom has it that India is upset about CPEC at its two ends: Gwadar, where the Chinese are establishing a maritime presence; and Jammu & Kashmir, where merging of Pakistani and Chinese territorial and military frontiers will internationalize the Kashmir issue, which India certainly does not want.
New Delhi is also bothered about China’s mounting investment in Pakistan, largely pouring in nuclear energy to assist Pakistan’s plans to build six nuclear reactors in coming few years, with more in the pipeline.
India also seems annoyed as it has its eyes on energy resources in Central Asia and Afghanistan to satisfy its energy needs since long, but China has eaten up many of these opportunities in recent years.
Once completed, the CPEC project would amplify China’s strategic footprints in the Indian Ocean and would alter the regional power matrix forever. Beijing would then be a much more dominant in the Indian Ocean even though geographically speaking China is not an Indian Ocean power; because CPEC offsets the Indian tactics for taking advantage of Chinese weakness in the Indian Ocean by blocking Malacca Strait in times of conflict.
India, to this day, has been reluctant to accept the notion of a stable Pakistan and is always engaged in activities that would disrupt its peace and stability. Now with the current Modi government in New Delhi, the ideological Hindutva ideology has become far more belligerent with the confessions of its siting ministers about sponsoring state terrorism in Pakistan to ensure India’s interests.
This is why CPEC is a venture that India doesn’t want to materialize, because the project would transform Pakistan into an international hub for trade and connectivity and would place Pakistan at the center of international politics and diplomacy. The CPEC is predicted to boost Pakistan’s economy, where the GDP is anticipated to grow over five percent by 2020, according to an IMF growth forecast.
The forecast mentions that Pakistan’s GDP will approach $4.2 trillion by 2050 from the current $988bn. The 3,200km-long corridor is planned to connect the world’s second largest economy, China, with the Middle East and Central Asia, reducing the alternative sea route distance – via the Malacca Strait by 10,000km. The report estimated that the economic corridor would create some 700,000 direct jobs between 2015 and 2030, and add up to 2.5 percent to the country’s growth rate.
Bearing in mind the fact that the Islamabad-Beijing partnership is coinciding with Pakistan’s ever-increasing strategic ties with Moscow, a Pakistan-China-Russia alliance is anticipated. This is bad news for the Indian security establishment.
CPEC is a demonstration of the vow of the leadership of China and Pakistan to work together for the shared benefit of their people and peace, prosperity and socio-economic advancement of the region. India’s opposition to the project is in fact the opposition to the brighter future of the region.
Instead of nurturing needless and uncalled for opposition to this dynamic project, the Indian leadership ought to focus on upgrading the plight of their own people and disentangling them from generational traps of miserable poverty, hunger, disease and socio-economic backwardness.
In our contemporary times, medieval politics would soon become redundant. The future belongs to economics and connectivity. India should not be agitated over Pak-China cooperation through the CPEC, rather stable Pakistan is in favour of India as it wants to achieve its high economic growth with the help of regional stability.
Saddam Hussein is a Research Fellow at Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, while pursuing his MPhil. in Public Policy from School of Public Policy, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad.