Addressing India’s concerns regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), a United Nations report has said that the project might further ignite tensions between India and Pakistan.
According to the report released by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the $50 billion project could “fuel separatist movement” in Pakistan’s Balochistan due to opposition there.
“The dispute over Kashmir is also of concern, since the crossing of the CPEC in the region might create geo-political tension with India and ignite further political instability,” the report said with regards to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to the report, which was prepared at the request of China, the instability in Afghanistan could affect the “viability of the CPEC”, over which India has already raised protests with China. India had also boycotted the last week’s BRI summit in Beijing.
“Afghanistan’s political instability could also limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active,” the report said.
Other economic corridors of the BRI such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM) were also covered in the report. The report also said that the CPEC could prove to be a “driver for trade and economic integration” between China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian states.
“However, social and environmental safeguards are a concern. The CPEC could lead to widespread displacement of local communities. In Balochistan, there are concerns that migrants from other regions of Pakistan will render ethnic Baloch a minority in the province,” the report said.
Among other concerns, the report mentioned that farmlands and orchards in western Pakistan could be destroyed as the CPEC will pass from the already narrow strip of cultivable land in the region. It added that the “resulting resettlements would reduce local population into an economically subservient minority”.
“Marginalisation of local population groups could reignite separatist movements and toughen military response from the Government,” it said.