By – Abdur Rehman Shah
The latest report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a leading global think tank, has extensively evaluated the security implications of China’s One Belt and One Road Initiative for South Asia and Central Asia – the Eurasia region – and Europe. The report observes that extension of China’s global footprint under this grand initiative will in fact serve as an additional impetus for it to take leadership role in global governance and regional and local security affairs. However, the report observes that this course is fraught with enormous challenges, obstacles and perils.
China’s vision to develop infrastructure, regional connectivity and economic cooperation is intended to fill in the vacuum of critical infrastructure throughout the Eurasian regions. Additionally, there are no priori stipulations and conditions attached to these investments. SIPRI report says that if implemented successfully, the project could become a leading model of economic cooperation. It has also identified the potential pitfalls and risks related to China’s initiative. For example, there is skepticism as to whether this plan is feasible altogether in practical terms. It is also claimed that rather than being a multilateral initiative, the belt is aimed at expending only China’s interests and influence.
More importantly, the report highlights the ramifications of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for the broader regional security environment. Based on extensive input from the observations of Imtiaz Gul – Executive Director Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) – the report argues that the project has further intensified the historic rivalry between India and Pakistan. It says that CPEC can exacerbate three faultiness in South Asian security: China versus India, China-Pakistan versus India and China versus India and its partners, namely the USA, Japan and, to a lesser degree, and Vietnam.
The Balochistan province has been geopolitically instrumentalized by regional players, which is an evidence that CPEC has led to the formation of political and security bloc formation. However, SIPRI report points out that USA-India vs. China-Pakistan rivalry has always been there regardless of the CPEC. If CPEC has done anything, it has further strengthened the strategic alliance between China and Pakistan.
The report notes whether such shifting of alliances in the region would prove to be source of regional instability or driving force of economic growth will come into view with the passage of time. It adds that any major policy shift of the Trump administration within the region might prove equally important in deciding the fate of these regional alliance blocs.
Abdur Rehman Shah is Research Associate at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad. He holds Master’s and M. Phil. in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He tweets @abdur_shah.