Some Pakistani lawmakers have expressed concern that China may use the $46-billion economic corridor, that runs through the country’s restive Balochistan province, to enhance trade ties with India. In a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, the lawmakers were of the view that China was investing in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to explore new vistas of trade with different countries “right from neighbouring India to Central Asian states and Europe”, Dawn reported today.
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One of the senators said with improved rail and road links with India through Munabao in Rajasthan and Amritsar in Punjab under the CPEC, China would expand its trade not only with Central Asian states and European nations but also with India to economically strengthen its eight underdeveloped provinces.
Chairman of the committee Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi endorsed the view. “China will definitely use the CPEC to expand trade with India because one who invests always watches one’s interests first,” he was quoted as saying in the report.
Mashhadi said China’s trade relations with India were far bigger than with Pakistan as China had inked USD 100 billion trade agreements with India last year. “Irrespective of sour Pakistan-India relations, China will do trade with Indian through the CPEC,” Mashhadi said.
The CPEC – a network of roads and railways – links western China to Gwadar Port in southern Pakistan, making it easier for Beijing to access the Arabian Sea for trade transit. China has built the port and also has its operational control.
India has expressed reservations over the ambitious CPEC project as it passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The CPEC – part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt-One Road initiative – is expected to give a boost to Pakistan’s dwindling economy. But experts are divided over security aspects for the project.
Pakistan’s Balochistan province has seen locals protesting against the project and the province is plagued by terrorism and separatism. Last week, a terrorist strike at a Sunni dargah in the province killed more than 50 people and injured nearly 100. This was the third major incident in four months.