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SECURING THE CPEC (Threats from India)

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation. The CPEC is located at the hub of the BRI and is a pivotal component of its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It can fetch unprecedented and unconditional prosperity and peace dividends for the entire South and Central Asian region and scores of the 60 plus BRI countries. As part of the CPEC, the Gwadar port can offer indirect benefits to many of the 32 littoral states of the Indian Ocean that may not be part of the BRI. Regrettably, some powers are opposing this progress for their own perverted and trivial reasons. They are creating overt and covert hurdles in its implementation and are displaying competitive, rather than cooperative reactions. Rival projects like the US sponsored  ‘New Silk Road package’,  in partnership with India and Afghanistan and the ‘Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor’ proposed by India and Japan, have  been prompted by the CPEC. Similarly, Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar is intended to contest with growth of Gwadar port.  China and Pakistan have rightly not shown any aversion to the competition, though India has already started misusing the Chabahar project for aiding, abetting and sponsoring RAW terrorist networks to disrupt the CPEC. Of greater concern are the numerous efforts and international conspiracies, engineered by India and supported by others, to sabotage the CPEC. Indian hostile activities in Pakistan intensified within days of the inauguration of the CPEC shipments. Attempts include numerous Indian terrorist activities in Balochistan in collaboration with Afghanistan that are mentioned in the confessions of Commander Jhadav.

Frequent disinformation campaigns about CPEC have also simultaneously been launched inside Pakistan. All these highly provocative actions are part of a well thought and integrated, international conspiracy that is   tantamount to an undeclared war, as they pose a direct threat to the national interests of not only China and Pakistan but many other countries that could benefit from the BRI and the CPEC.  US support to India on the matter, under this environment is very short sighted indeed.

Though challenges to CPEC appear daunting but they can be surmounted. The Pakistani Foreign Office has taken note of some of more serious developments and has initiated appropriate action to condemn and reject hostile measures against the CPEC, calling them as an infringement of the UN Charter and impingement of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, this has been done somewhat cautiously and at a rather low level, so far. There   is a need to concomitantly and officially communicate our concerns, at the highest level, to the heads of the foreign governments that are opposing the CPEC. This should be done jointly and severally by Pakistan and China, in consultation with the other countries that are part of the BRI.  Our response should include manifold collective remedies and counteractions, to compel the antagonists of the CPEC to desist from hurting our economic interests. The BRI has recently been written into China’s constitution. Being a vital interest, the Pakistani government must also provide constitutional protection to the CPEC. Negative propaganda against the CPEC must be dispelled through Sino-Pak state and private media, ensuring transparency of planning, as well as execution and arranging seminars and workshops.

While the government has raised special security force for the protection of the CPEC, this must be augmented with a Pak-China CPEC intelligence organization, satellitemonitoring and enhanced maritime collaboration. Another multinational organization, led by China, must be formed to respond to the threats posed to the BRI, through coordinated political, diplomatic, economic, security and surveillance measures.

Despite heavy odds, many CPEC projects are already up and running. This is a clear message about the resilience and determination of the Chinese and the Pakistani people, who are committed to its success, not only for their own benefit, but also for others to diversify and develop their economies. This should inspire everyone to support, rather than oppose the CPEC.

SOURCE:https://pakobserver.net/securing-the-cpec-2/

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CPEC: the governance challenges ahead — II

Pakistan faces both internal and external security threats. The monster of modern terrorism, however, is a post-9/11 phenomenon. When General-cum-President Pervez Musharraf supported the US-led War on Terror (WoT) against the Taliban, the latter, in reaction, started targeting the Pakistani society and state. Resultantly, more than thirty thousand civilians and law enforcement officials have lost their lives in multiple acts of terrorism since 2003. Nevertheless, the overall number of causalities have dropped since 2014 owing to some legislative and executive measures taken by the government, but suicide bombers are still a real threat. Finding opportunity, any terrorist organization can strike. The country’s security apparatuses are the most tempting targets, while minorities are the most vulnerable.

Most of the people who died in terror attacks were ordinary Pakistani citizens, both Muslims and non-Muslims. But foreigners have also been targeted. For example, an American national was kidnapped and later killed in Karachi some years ago. Iranians have also been targeted.

Similarly, the Islamic State (IS) abducted, as per media reports, two Chinese nationals who were Christian missionaries, near Quetta in 2017. The couple was eventually killed. This seemed like an attempt on the part of the terrorists to malign China-Pakistan relations, in general, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, in particular. Moreover, another Chinese national was also killed in Karachi, reportedly by extortionists. The deceased Chinese citizen, according to Pakistani officials, was working for a non-CPEC firm called Cosco Shipping Lines Pak (Pvt) Ltd, which has been doing business in Pakistan since the early 1990s. If analysed objectively, in both cases, the Chinese nationals were residing or working in Pakistan in their private capacity. Furthermore, they were not related to CPEC in any capacity. Noticeably, the missionary couple and the private-firm employee were provided due security by the government. However, in both incidents, the Chinese citizens seemed to have violated security protocols, which cost them their lives.

The overall number of terror-related casualties has dropped since 2014 owing to some legislative and executive measures taken by the government, but suicide bombers are still a real threat. Finding opportunity, any terrorist organisation can strike

Recently there have also been reports of some Chinese citizens involved in financial crimes such as ATM skimming. Such cases remain under investigation. In addition, in April 2018, a number of Chinese workers were filmed assaulting some personnel of the Punjab police in the Noor Pur camp (Khanewal, Punjab). Video footage of this shameful incident went viral on social media. At one point during the scuffle, the country project manager of the concerned company stood arrogantly on the bonnet of the police van with the Pakistani flag visible beside his shoes — this was not the first such incident.

Here, it is pertinent to mention that on December 8, 2017, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad issued a press release that read “the Chinese embassy has received some information that the security of the Chinese institutions and personnel in Pakistan might be threatened.  This Embassy would make it clear that Pakistan is a friendly country to China. We appreciate that Pakistan has attached much importance to the security of the Chinese institutions and personnel”. The preceding is a reflection of China’s growing security concerns vis-à-vis its CPEC related citizens. Even, the number of non-CPEC related Chinese nationals — working, for example, as journalists — have crossed fifteen thousands. Physical security of the Chinese residing and working in Pakistan has, therefore, emerged as a legitimate concern, which the Pakistani authorities need to take into policy consideration.

However, despite the mentioned cases of Chinese citizens being killed by terrorists, the fact of the matter is that CPEC has, thus far, not been targeted by a major terrorist attack on its infrastructure, machinery and work force. However, this should not discourage or devalue the significance of security enhancement on the part of Pakistani authorities. Rather, impending security threats ought to be responded to diligently. This will be easier said than done because it raises questions on the legal, institutional and administrative capacity of the government.

For example, is it the prerogative of the local, provincial, regional or federal government to provide material and physical security to, for example, transportation infrastructure (or to the proposed Special Economic Zones) and the Chinese work force and machinery involved at different stages of construction? If it is a combined arrangement on the part of the provincial and federal government, who will be responsible for implementing the security measures? Which government and at what level, will bear the financial and logistical cost of security? Moreover, if the provision of security is the responsibility of the provincial government, will the province be able to manage it logistically and institutionally? Significantly, will the Chinese companies and human resource be satisfied with the security arrangements provided by Pakistani authorities? These are some major security challenges that Pakistan will have to deal with for the sake of CPEC, which has been termed by both China and Pakistan, as a crucial component of contemporary bilateral relations. I will provide policy input, in this respect, in the upcoming articles in this series.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/255100/cpec-the-governance-challenges-ahead-ii/

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CPEC — a solution to the Kashmir issue?

In December 2017, China offered the Afghan government a chance to become part of their ambitious $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At the same time, they made it clear that the project was not in any way directed against India and that no third party should be concerned with its progress. This came after India complained that the corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)in Pakistan-administered Kashmir which is a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

After negotiating a border stand-off at Doklam Plateau (China-Bhutan disputed border) both India and China indicated that they wanted to build peaceful relations by solving their bilateral disputes through diplomacy instead of armed conflicts. Pakistan wants to follow the same path, and open a dialogue with India in order for CPEC to develop without any problems. However, another solution could be that the government of Pakistan could instead refer to the people of this region. The Kashmiris and the people of GB could also be brought into the loop. They could finally have the plebiscite that was promised these people by the UNCIP resolution so many years ago.  But this will never happen.

Pakistan fears the outcome of the plebiscite. Why do you think Pakistan has been so reluctant to grant GB provincial status? The usual response from Islamabad is that its due to its disputed nature yet the reality is quite different.

After the 18th amendment was passed under Asif Ali Zardari’s government, provinces were granted a semblance of autonomy. However, if GB was given provincial status, it would control its own economic and administrative polices and could claim a larger share of the benefits from CPEC. Another reason was their small population size of only two million people. If they were granted provincial status then the people of FATA, Southern Punjab, the Potohar region and Karachi could also end up demanding provincial status and full autonomy. Thus, by issuing Order 2018, Islamabad has made certain that the centre continues to enjoy the economic benefits and administrative powers that would’ve instead been under the control of the people of GB themselves.

In case of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), Islamabad amended the Interim Act of 1974. The legislative, monetary and administrative status of the Kashmir Council has been reduced to an advisory role, with all powers reverted to the office of the prime minister. By reinforcing Section 7 of the Interim Act, and adding an additional clause, the government has essentially restricted the freedom movement in AJK and disillusioned the locals.

In October 2017, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani categorically said that his country would join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) only if Islamabad allows connectivity between India and Afghanistan. Mentioning sovereignty issues raised by India, Ghani also warned that if Afghanistan was not given transit access to Wagah and Attari for trade with India via Pakistan, then Kabul would also restrict Islamabad’s access to central Asia. When Pakistan and India both reluctant to sit down for a civilised talk, China decided to use backdoor channels to open a dialogue with India and convince them to cooperate with Pakistan. As a result, an Indian delegation was spotted at a March 23 parade in Islamabad, and later the same year at the Shanghai Co-operation Summit.

“What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir”

Now there is an interim government in charge. They have limited powers and this provides the establishment a freehand. As a first step the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) on May,29 2018 (soon after the announcement of interim PM) tweeted the first sign of the establishment’s anticipated strategy to calm tensions with India. The director generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement on the border, including the LOC in AJK. India for their part realise that the only time relations with their neighbours to the West got better, was under Musharraf’s rule, which is why they believe talking to the establishment will lead to better results with respect to CPEC. If this turns out to be true, then India will be given the green light to join CPEC in the coming weeks. It would benefit them greatly as it would open up markets in central Asia, and, at the same time, ease tensions with Pakistan.

 

In the end, CPEC seems like a great opportunity for all countries involved yet there is one important community that is being ignored in all of this, the people of GB and AJK. If there had been a strong and unified leadership in the region then perhaps they could have used this opportunity to pressurise Pakistan, and India in to giving them more autonomy and letting them be in charge of their own fate.

However, current leaders are not brave enough to make these sacrifices and are, instead, happy to take whatever scraps Islamabad throws at them. What the region needs is a strong group of leaders who are not afraid to take on the collective might of the Indian and Pakistani governments, in order to fight for the disenfranchised people of GB and AJK. Only then can the years of oppression they have suffered through finally come to a stop and its citizens get the freedom they have craved for so long.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/250530/cpec-a-solution-to-the-kashmir-issue/

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China provides ‘high-performance tracking system’ for Pakistan’s missile programme

China has sold Pakistan a powerful tracking system in an unprecedented deal that could speed up the military’s development of multi-warhead missiles, according to South China Morning Post.

News of the sale to Islamabad – and evidence that Beijing is supporting Pakistan’s rapidly developing missile programme – comes two months after India tested its most advanced nuclear-ready intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range long enough to hit Beijing or Shanghai, the article in the Chinese daily observes.

According to the publication, Chinese authorities declassified information about the deal on Wednesday.

A statement on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) website said China was the first country to export such sensitive equipment to Pakistan.

Zheng Mengwei, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Optics and Electronics in Chengdu, Sichuan province, confirmed to the South China Morning Post that Pakistan had bought a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system from China.

Alarming arms race among Pakistan, India and China

The country’s military recently deployed the Chinese-made system “at a firing range” for use in testing and developing its new missiles, he said.

India’s January 18 test of its Agni-V ICBM, with a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles), is seen as a message that the country can deploy a credible nuclear deterrent against China, and Beijing is determined to counter it.

While the Hindu-majority country’s single-warhead missiles are bigger and cover longer distances, Pakistan has focused its efforts on developing multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), a type of missile-carrying several nuclear warheads that can be directed towards different targets.

The US Defence Intelligence Agency officially confirmed in March that Pakistan conducted the first test launch of its nuclear-capable Ababeel missile in January 2017, “demonstrating South Asia’s first MIRV payload”.

China’s multi-nuke missile capable of striking anywhere in world to be ready soon

Although the Ababeel missile has a range of only 2,200km, it can deliver numerous warheads to different targets. The technology has the potential to overwhelm a missile defence system, wiping out an adversary’s nuclear arsenal in one surprise attack.

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China urges Trump to drop ‘Cold War mentality’

BEIJING: Beijing criticised the “outdated Cold War mentality” of the United States Wednesday after President Donald Trump named China among threats to American values in his State of the Union address.

In recent weeks, US officials have laid the groundwork for a strategic pivot that envisions a world of renewed great power competition with the likes of Russia and China.

In his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday, Trump described Moscow and Beijing as challenging “our interests, our economy, and our values”.

In Beijing Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the common interests of the US and China “far outweigh our differences and disagreements”.

A steady relationship with the United States is “also in the interest of the whole world,” Li said after meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“China hopes that the United States will work with us and continue to view this relationship in a positive overall perspective,” he said.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had more critical words.

“We hope the US side can abandon the outdated Cold War mentality to work for the shared goal with China of properly managing our differences and upholding the steady development of China-US relations,” she told a regular press briefing.

Source: https://arynews.tv/en/china-trump-cold-war-mentality/

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China in talks over military base in remote Afghanistan: officials

KABUL: Worried about militants sneaking into a restive Chinese region from war-torn Afghanistan, Beijing is in talks with Kabul over the construction of a military base, Afghan officials say, as it seeks to shore up its fragile neighbour.

The army camp will be built in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous Wakhan Corridor, where witnesses have reported seeing Chinese and Afghan troops on joint patrols.

The freezing, barren panhandle of land — bordering China’s tense Xinjiang region — is so cut off from the rest of Afghanistan that many inhabitants are unaware of the Afghan conflict, scraping out harsh but peaceful lives.

However they retain strong links with neighbours in Xinjiang, and with so few travellers in the region local interest in the Chinese visitors has been high, residents told AFP on a recent visit there.

China’s involvement in the base comes as President Xi Jinping seeks to extend Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The Chinese are pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure in South Asia. With Afghanistan’s potential to destabilise the region, analysts said any moves there would be viewed through the prism of security.

Beijing fears that exiled Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are passing through the Wakhan into Xinjiang to carry out attacks.

It also worries that Islamic State group militants fleeing Iraq and Syria could cross Central Asia and Xinjiang to reach Afghanistan, or use the Wakhan to enter China, analysts say.

Afghan and Chinese officials discussed the plan in December in Beijing, but details are still being clarified, Afghan defence ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh said.

“We are going to build it (the base) but the Chinese government has committed to help the division financially, provide equipment and train the Afghan soldiers,” he told AFP recently.

A senior Chinese embassy official in Kabul would only say Beijing is involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan.

NATO’s US-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan declined to comment. But US officials have previously welcomed China’s role in Afghanistan, noting they share the same security concerns.

Members of the Kyrgyz ethnic minority in Wakhan told AFP in October they had been seeing Chinese and Afghan military patrols for months.

“The Chinese army first came here last summer and they were accompanied by the Afghan army,” said Abdul Rashid, a Kyrgyz chief, adding that he had seen vehicles flying Chinese flags.

The Afghan army arrived days earlier “and told us that the Chinese army would be coming here”, he said, adding: “We were strictly told not to go near them or talk to them and not to take any photos.”

Rashid’s account was confirmed by other Kyrgyz, including another chief Jo Boi, who said the Chinese military spent almost a year in Wakhan before leaving in March 2017.

Both Chinese and Afghan officials deny the claims, with China’s defence ministry telling AFP that the “Chinese army is not engaged in any military operation in the Wakhan Corridor”.

With little access to the corridor, Kabul provides almost no services to those who live there — but the Chinese, Boi said, have been bringing “a lot of food and warm clothes”.

“They are very good people, very kind,” he told AFP.

After their March visit, he said, they returned in June for roughly a month. “Since then they come every month… to distribute food.”

China fears militancy could threaten its growing economic interests in the region, Ahmad Bilal Khalil, a researcher at the Kabul-based Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, told AFP.

“They need to have a secure Afghanistan,” he said, estimating Beijing had provided Kabul with more than $70 million in military aid in the past three years.

It recently flagged the possibility of including Afghanistan in the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan.

Source: https://arynews.tv/en/china-talks-military-base-remote-afghanistan-officials/

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China denies plan to build military base in Afghanistan

BEIJING: 

China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday denied that it was planning to build a military base in Afghanistan, branding such reports “groundless”.

Russian news agency Ferghana News, which focuses on Central Asia, has reported that China will build the base in northern Afghanistan.

The report was picked up last week by US magazine The Diplomat and then in Chinese state media.

China likely to build military base in Pakistan: US

Speaking at a regular news briefing, ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said that the two countries had normal security cooperation and that China like other countries was supporting Afghanistan in defence and counter-terrorism.

“The so-called issue that China is building a military base in Afghanistan is groundless,” Wu said.

The ministry has also previously dismissed reports that Chinese military vehicles were patrolling inside Afghanistan.

China slams Pentagon report on overseas military bases

China has long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan could spill over into the violence-prone Xinjiang region in China’s far west, home to the Muslim Uighur people, where hundreds of people have died in recent years in unrest blamed by China on militants.

China has also worked with Pakistan and the United States to broker peace talks to end Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency that has raged since the militants were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.

China opened its first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti, last year. China has previously denied having plans for other overseas bases, but the United States expects China to build more, with Pakistan a likely location.

Source: The Express Tribune, 25th January 2018.

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India plans closer Southeast Asia maritime ties to counter China

NEW DELHI: India is gathering the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Regional Cooperation (ASEAN) for a summit on Thursday to promote maritime security in a region dominated by China, officials and diplomats said.

‘Chance of war’ between nuclear-armed China and India

India has been pursuing an “Act East” policy of developing political and economic ties with Southeast Asia, but its efforts have been tentative and far trail China, whose trade with ASEAN was more than six times India’s in 2016-17 at $470 million.
China has also expanded its presence in South Asia, building ports and power plants in countries around India’s periphery, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and spurring New Delhi to seek new allies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to join him in the Republic Day celebrations on Friday in the biggest ever gathering of foreign leaders at the parade that showcases military might and cultural diversity.

The leaders, who include Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, will hold talks on maritime cooperation and security, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Both India and the Southeast Asia nations have stressed the need for freedom of navigation and open seas and India already has strong naval ties with countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, Preeti Saran, secretary in the Indian foreign ministry, said.

“The ongoing activities of ship visits, of coordinated patrols, of exercises that take place bilaterally, are taking place very well,” Saran said. “And every time we have a defence to defence talks or navy to navy talks, there is a great deal of satisfaction that has been expressed by the ASEAN member countries.”

But several Southeast Asian countries locked in territorial disputes with China have sought even greater Indian engagement in the region, experts say.

“China’s distinctly hegemonic moves in the last few years in the South China Sea and its growing assertiveness have made ASEAN look towards India as a partner for equilibrium,” said Arvind Gupta, former Indian deputy national security adviser who now heads the influential Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi with close ties to the ruling government.

China may initiate ‘limited war’ with India

But India, which has been building up its navy, is wary of getting entangled in South China Sea disputes and provoking a backlash from China.

One of the plans the Indian and ASEAN leaders will be discussing at the closed-door summit on Thursday will be for their navies to exercise near the Malacca Straits between Malaysia and Singapore, one of the busiest routes for international shipping, a navy official said.

Source: The Express Tribune, 25th January 2018.

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China Confident Of Ensuring CPEC Success

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The CPEC links China’s restive Xinjiang region with Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Beijing—China on Tuesday said it is confident in ensuring the success of the USD 50 billion CPEC, a day after Pakistan’s security czar alleged that the US along with India is conspiring against the ambitious economic corridor.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The CPEC links China’s restive Xinjiang region with Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters today that China hopes more countries to join the project.

“I want to reiterate that CPEC is a new type of framework for the long term cooperation in various areas between China and Pakistan,” she said when asked about Pakistan’s claims.

The project is not only of positive significance for the development of the two countries but also conducive to the development of whole region, Hua said.

“We hope CPEC can receive more support and recognition of more countries and we are confident in ensuring the success of the building of CPEC with various parties including Pakistan,” she added.

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Lt Gen (retd.) Nasser Khan Janjua yesterday accused the US of conspiring against the multi-billion economic corridor with India.—PTI

Source: Kashmir Observer, 20th Dec 2017.

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Hoping to Extend Maritime Reach, China Lavishes Aid to Pakistan

China is lavishing vast amounts of aid on a small Pakistani fishing town to win over locals and build a commercial deep-water port that the United States and India suspect may also one day serve the Chinese navy.

Beijing has built a school, sent doctors and pledged about $500 million in grants for an airport, hospital, college and badly-needed water infrastructure for Gwadar, a dusty town whose harbor juts out into the Arabian Sea, overlooking some of the world’s busiest oil and gas shipping lanes.
The grants include $230 million for a new international airport, one of the largest such disbursements China has made abroad, according to researchers and Pakistani officials.
The handouts for the Gwadar project is a departure from Beijing’s usual approach in other countries. China has traditionally derided Western-style aid in favor of infrastructure projects for which it normally provides loans through Chinese state-owned commercial and development banks.
“The concentration of grants is quite striking,” said Andrew Small, an author of a book on China-Pakistan relations and a Washington-based researcher at the German Marshall Fund think tank.
“China largely doesn’t do aid or grants, and when it has done them, they have tended to be modest.”
Pakistan has welcomed the aid with open hands. However, Beijing’s unusual largesse has also fueled suspicions in the United States and India that Gwadar is part of China’s future geostrategic plans to challenge U.S. naval dominance.
“It all suggests that Gwadar, for a lot of people in China, is not just a commercial proposition over the longer term,” Small said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Beijing and Islamabad see Gwadar as the future jewel in the crown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new “Silk Road” of land and maritime trade routes across more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The plan is to turn Gwadar into a trans-shipment hub and megaport to be built alongside special economic zones from which export-focused industries will ship goods worldwide. A web of energy pipelines, roads and rail links will connect Gwadar to China’s western regions.
Port trade is expected to grow from 1.2 million tonnes in 2018 to about 13 million tonnes by 2022, Pakistani officials say. At the harbor, three new cranes have been installed and dredging will next year deepen the port depth to 20 meters at five berths.
But the challenges are stark. Gwadar has no access to drinking water, power blackouts are common and separatist insurgents threaten attacks against Chinese projects in Gwadar and the rest of Baluchistan, a mineral-rich province that is still Pakistan’s poorest region.
Security is tight, with Chinese and other foreign visitors driven around in convoys of soldiers and armed police.
Beijing is also trying to overcome the distrust of outsiders evident in Baluchistan, where indigenous Baloch fear an influx of other ethnic groups and foreigners. Many residents say the pace of change is too slow.
“Local people are not completely satisfied,” said Essar Nori, a lawmaker for Gwadar, adding that the separatists were tapping into that dissatisfaction.
Pakistani officials are urging Gwadar residents to be patient, vowing to urgently build desalination plants and power stations.
Cautionary Tale
China’s Gwadar project contrasts with similar efforts in Sri Lanka, where the village of Hambantota was transformed into a port complex – but was saddled with Chinese debt.
Last week, Sri Lanka formally handed over operations to China on a 99-year lease in exchange for lighter debt repayments, a move that sparked street protests over what many Sri Lankans view as an erosion of sovereignty.
The Hambantota port, like Gwadar, is part of a network of harbors Beijing is developing in Asia and Africa that have spooked India, which fears being encircled by China’s growing naval power.
But Pakistani officials say comparisons to Hambantota are unfair because the Gwadar project has much less debt.
On top of the airport, Chinese handouts in Gwadar include $100 million to expand a hospital by 250 beds, $130 million towards upgrading water infrastructure, and $10 million for a technical and vocational college, according to Pakistani government documents and officials.
“We welcome this assistance as it’s changing the quality of life of the people of Gwadar for the better,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the parliamentary committee that oversees CPEC, including Gwadar.
China and Pakistan jointly choose which projects will be developed under the CPEC mechanism, Sayed added.
When China suggested a 7,000 meter runway for the new airport, Pakistan pushed for a 12,000 meter one that could accommodate planes as large as the Airbus 380 and be used for military purposes, according to Sajjad Baloch, a director of the Gwadar Development Authority.
The scale of Chinese grants is extraordinary, according to Brad Parks, executive director of AidData, a research lab at the U.S.-based William and Mary university that collected data on Chinese aid across 140 countries from 2000-2014.
Since 2014, Beijing has pledged over $800 million in grants and concessional loans for Gwadar, which has less than 100,000 people. In the 15 years before that, China gave about $2.4 billion in concessional loans and grants during this period across the whole of Pakistan, a nation of 207 million people.
“Gwadar is exceptional even by the standards of China’s past activities in Pakistan itself,” Parks said.
Hearts and Minds
There are early signs China’s efforts to win hearts and minds are beginning to bear fruit in Gwadar.
“Baluchistan is backward and underdeveloped, but we are seeing development after China’s arrival,” said Salam Dashti, 45, a grocer whose two children attend the new Chinese-built primary school.
But there are major pitfalls ahead.
Tens of thousands of people living by the port will have to be relocated.
For now, they live in cramped single-story concrete houses corroded by sea water on a narrow peninsula, where barefoot fishermen offload their catch on newly-paved roads strewn with rubbish. Many of the fishermen say they fear they’ll lose their livelihoods once the port starts operating.
Indigenous residents’ fear of becoming a minority is inevitable with Gwadar’s population expected to jump more than 15-fold in coming decades. On the edge of town, mansions erected by land speculators are popping up alongside the sand dunes.
Analysts say China is aware that previous efforts to develop Gwadar port failed partly due to the security threat posed by Baloch separatists, so Beijing is trying to counter the insurgents’ narrative that China wants to exploit Baluchistan.
“That weighs heavily on the minds of the Chinese,” Parks added. “It’s almost certainly true that they are trying to safeguard their investments by getting more local buy-in.”
Chinese officials, meanwhile, are promoting the infrastructure development they are funding.
“Every day you can see new changes. It shows the sincerity of Chinese for development of Gwadar,” Lijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, tweeted last month.
Naval Facility
For its investment in Gwadar, China will receive 91 percent of revenues until the port is returned to Pakistan in four decades’ time. The operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, will also be exempt from major taxes for more than 20 years.
Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister, Hasil Bizenjo, said the arrival of the Chinese in the region contrasted with the experience of the past two centuries, when Russia and Britain, and later the United States and the Soviet Union, vied for control of the warm water ports of the Persian Gulf.
“The Chinese have come very smoothly, they have reached the warm waters,” Bizenjo told Reuters. “What they are investing is less than a peanut for access to warm waters.”
When a U.S. Pentagon report in June suggested Gwadar could become a military base for China, a concern that India has also expressed, Beijing dismissed the idea.
“Talk that China is building a military base in Pakistan is pure guesswork,” said a Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, Wu Qian.
Bizenjo and other Pakistani officials say Beijing has not asked to use Gwadar for naval purposes.
“This port, they will use it mostly for their commercial interests, but it depends on the next 20 years where the world goes,” Bizenjo said.

Source: Maritime Logistics, 19th Dec 2017.