Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port, being developed by China under a $46 billion economic corridor initiative, will have implications not only for India but also for the US, Iran and Gulf region, a former Pakistani envoy to the US has said. “If China is going to take care of this or have its military and naval presence in Gwadar, its implications won’t be just about India. It will also put them at the mouth of the Gulf. It will have implications for Iran, it will have implications for the Gulf, other countries. It will have implications for the US and its supply of oil and other trade with the Gulf countries,” former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani has said. Haqqani said that Gwadar was always being conceived by Islamabad as a strategic military base.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southern Pakistan, and the Gwadar Port, to China’s restive Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. As it passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), India has raised objection to the project. “Pakistan doesn’t have the resources to have a large Navy base. But then Pakistan’s entire strategic outlook is related to India,” Haqqani said, adding that that is the reason why Pakistan opposes UN Security Council reform.
“It’s not because it really objects to adding new members to the permanent members to the Security Council. It doesn’t want India to become the permanent Security Council member,” he said. Samir Saran, Vice President of New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation (ORF) at a round table organised by The Hudson Institute, a top American think-tank said CPEC is a project where politics determines economic considerations. Reiterating India’s stand, Saran told the audience that part of the CPEC passes through PoK, which is a violation of India’s sovereignty.
At the same time, he warned that the economic aspects of the project would virtually make Pakistan subservient to China. As a result of this, he noted, China’s rise will no longer be in the Asia Pacific region. “It could also be in the Indian Ocean, in the Arctic, in the Atlantic Ocean, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore any partnerships anyone in the world wants to stitch together to now balance and measure this rise will necessarily have to move to the mouth of the Gulf and have to move through the Indian ocean and the rest of the Indian ocean,” Saran said.
Saran also said that given its economic strength, Pakistan is unlikely to pay back the financial assistance it is receiving from China. In fact it would have a tough time in paying USD 3 billion in annual repayment to China. And every time Pakistan would be unable to repay it, there would be fresh set of negotiation and the Chinese equity would keep on increasing in Pakistan, he said. “CPEC is more political than it is economic in its very structure, in its very conception,” he said.
The CPEC which crosses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and ends up in the Gwadar port in Balochistan and for which Beijing has promised to pump in more than $46 billion is basically “colonising” Pakistan and “rebranding” it as an economic package, argued Prof C Christine Fair from Georgetown University, before a Washington audience last week. Fair, alleged that Pakistan is headed towards becoming a colony of China through CPEC.
“CPEC is colonising Pakistan and rebranding it as an economic package,” she said during the round table discussion on ‘The China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Regional Ramifications’, organised by The Hudson Institute. The discussion on CPEC ahead of the China-sponsored upcoming summit in Beijing issued a warning bell to the major global players and the three experts asserted that this is one project which if completed would tend to pose a major threat to American strategic interest in this part of the world as China does in the disputed South China Sea.