The kidnapping of a Chinese couple from the restive Balochistan province two days ago highlights the risks faced by Beijing in building the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an article in a state-run daily said today. “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the other projects under the grand (Belt and Road) initiative are like every investment where opportunities and risks co-exist,” an op-ed article in the Global Times said.
“Terrorism, unstable domestic politics, and disagreement among various parties within Pakistan about how CPEC transportation routes should be mapped out are prominent challenges to the implementation of the CPEC,” it said, acknowledging differences within Pakistan over the project.
Besides Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province apprehend that the Chinese investments would be garnered by the people from the powerful Punjab province.
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“No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yet. But it is worth noting that Islamic militants have often carried out abductions of foreigners on Pakistani soil, either for ransom or to get publicity for their cause,” the article said.
Reports from Pakistan also pointed fingers at Baloch nationalists, who are opposed to the Chinese projects over apprehensions of marginalisation in their native province. “Chinese people have also been targeted occasionally, despite the friendly relations between the two countries,” the article said.
“But the restive region has seen frequent violence committed by Islamic terrorists and separatists and the Belt and Road programme is often been exposed to potential threats,” it said. Last year, a Chinese engineer was injured in a bomb attack in southern Pakistan and a separatist group, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were targeting the CPEC, it said.
The Chinese presence in Pakistan has increased in the past few years thanks to the thriving CPEC involving roads, ports, power plants and other crucial infrastructure. “CPEC is also the flagship project of the China-led Belt and Road initiative,” the article said.
Balochistan is in the centre of the CPEC which is expected to link China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the southern coast, it said. India has objected to the 3000 km-long corridor as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“Pakistan is betting big on the economic corridor which will be a major boost to its future development,” it said. The logic behind this project is that it would improve Pakistan’s economy and help eliminate the challenges posed by political extremists, radicals and jihadists in the country.
But these challenges have posed risks to this ongoing project that require attention and solutions from both sides, the article said. The Pakistani government has deployed 15,000 military personnel to protect projects under the economic corridor. China has also urged Pakistan to intensify its efforts in protecting the safety of Chinese personnel in the nation, it said.
“If implemented well, the Belt and Road initiative would become a milestone during the process of China’s rise,” it said.