China today played down a UN report that cautioned that the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor could ignite “geo-political” tensions with India, saying it is an economic project and will not affect Beijing’s stand on the Kashmir issue.
In an exhaustive report on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said, “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”.
Asked for his comments on the report which also warned Beijing that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could also fuel the separatist movement in Pakistan’s Balochistan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing that the ESCAP did not issue any specific report on the CPEC but on the BRI. CPEC is the flagship project of the BRI.
“As for whether the CPEC passes through the controversial territory, I have said many times that the CPEC is an economic initiative and it will not affect our position on the Kashmir issue,” Lu said.
“I have seen the Indian media reporting on this but we have not read the full text,” Lu said, adding that “all parties” who attended the just concluded 73rd session of ESCAP in Bangkok spoke highly of the BRI and its role in promoting the development of Asia and the Pacific.
“They support ESCAP in enhancing its alignment with the BRI so as to promote connectivity and coordination in policies, infrastructure building, exchanges in trade, finance and people to people and cultural exchanges,” he said.
This shows the support of the international community towards the BRI and the report issued by ESCAP also gave a high evaluation for the positive role played by it and also expanded indeed how ESCAP can play a positive role in this initiative, Lu said.
Besides cautioning about geo-political tensions due to the CPEC traversing through the disputed regions, the ESCAP report also said the project may “ignite” further political instability besides fuelling the separatist movement in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
The report prepared at the request of China also cautioned that the instability in Afghanistan could cast a shadow over the viability of the CPEC on which India has already raised protests with China and boycotted last week’s BRI summit hosted by 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.
According to the report, while the CPEC could serve as the “driver for trade and economic integration” between China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, it could also cause many problems within Pakistan and reignite separatist movement in the country due to opposition in Balochistan.