The recent bomb attack in Pakistan’s troubled Balochistan province, a day ahead of the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Gwadar port, has raised a ‘security alarm’ for the USD 46 billion project, state-run Chinese media said on Tuesday.
“With the departure of a Chinese ship from the renovated port of Gwadar in Balochistan Province, Pakistan on Sunday, the long-awaited China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a mega cooperation project has become realised after having been agreed in 2013,” an oped article in the official daily Global Times said on Tuesday.
This is the first time official Chinese media made a reference to the formal launch of the CPEC, which was kept under wraps until it was inaugurated at ceremony by Pakistani and Chinese officials at the Gwadar port.
Significantly the daily carried three articles on Tuesday on the subject, one on security concerns over the CPEC and two on criticising India’s reservations in taking part in China’s Silk Road projects in which CPEC is a part.
Ahead of the launch of the CPEC, a bomb in another part of Balochistan killed at least 52 people and wounded 106 at a sufi shrine in an attack later claimed by the Islamic State.
“This has sent a security alarm to the ongoing CPEC project. Balochistan, the largest and most impoverished province of Pakistan, is labelled the ‘troubled heart’ of the CPEC by some media, as modern geopolitics has provided new incentives to the long-standing violence there,” the article said.
Last month, suicide attackers targeted a police training school in which 61 people were killed over 165 others injured. Pakistan officials blamed the attack on Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni terrorist outfit targeting Shias in the country.
“The Pakistan government claims that Baloch separatists receive training in camps in Afghanistan. It also accuses foreign terrorist forces of backing Baloch insurgents and working to destabilise Pakistan,” it said.
“Meanwhile, dissatisfaction has been fuelled in Balochistan as it was alleged that the CPEC will not benefit the province and the fruits will actually go to the Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province which the Baloch insurgents accuse of ‘looting’ their resources,” it said, referring differences within Pakistan over the project.
“While the goals of the project are grand, some hostile overseas forces also have their eyes on the route. What matters more is not the signing of deals, but the timely execution of the deals, which requires security guarantees along the route,” it said.
“Among the complicated geopolitical landscape, both domestic and regional, the CPEC is an easy target. Pakistan and China should work closely to address the security threat,” it said. A second article on the CPEC in the daily while praising Pakistan’s open attitude to Chinese investments criticised India for not taking part in Belt & Road (B&R) projects.
“This forms a sharp contrast to political suspicions concerning Chinese investment in some other countries like India, which are still reluctant to participate in China’s Belt & Road (Silk Road) initiative,” it said.
“The CPEC has the potential to be a game-changer that will allow Pakistan to play a more important role in the economic landscape of South Asia if India continues refusing to enhance its economic ties with China,” it said.
“China’s initial success in pushing forward the CPEC may arouse vigilance in India, but it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the changing economic landscape in the region puts some pressure on New Delhi to rethink its strategy toward the Belt and Road initiative and Chinese investment,” it said referring to India’s objections to the CPEC as it runs through the PoK and Maritime Silk Road .
A third article titled ‘India shouldn’t hype Belt and Road (B&R) political intent’ criticised New Delhi’s reservations over the projects.
“We cannot deny that the B&R initiative brings some negative geopolitical effects, although it’s not China’s real intention. Due to deep-rooted strategic suspicions from some countries toward China, the geopolitical factor in the initiative has been exaggerated,” it said.
“Some countries treat the initiative as a geopolitical competition with a zero-sum mindset. Some big powers in the region or beyond tried to openly or covertly destroy the infrastructure construction and economic cooperation programs between China and South Asian countries,” it said.
“China and India have been cooperating on many large projects, especially in the field of infrastructure construction. There is also much cooperation among companies. China is building industrial parks in India, and many delegations of Indian local governments are coming to China to attract FDI,” it said.
“All this cooperation is not under the name of the B&R initiative, but to China, all of them are under the framework of the initiative. The current cooperation model between China and India is acceptable if the Indian side does not exaggerate the geopolitical implications of the B&R initiative,” it said.