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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 fails to get Indian support for Belt and Road ahead of Modi-Xi summit

BEIJING: China failed to get India’s support for its ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project at the end of a foreign ministers’ meeting of a major security bloc on Tuesday, ahead of an ice-breaking trip to China this week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Belt and Road is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s landmark scheme to build infrastructure to connect China to the rest of Asia and beyond, a giant reworking of its old Silk Road.

India has not signed up to the initiative as parts of one key project, the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, run through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Whether or not China will be able to win India round to the Belt and Road will likely be a key measure of the success of PM Modi’s trip to China to meet Xi for an informal meeting on Friday and Saturday. But Sushma Swaraj did not express support for Belt and Road in the communique released after foreign ministers of the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation met in Beijing.

India, along with Pakistan, joined the group last year.

All the other foreign ministers – from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – “reaffirmed support for China’s Belt and Road proposal”, the statement read.

It gave no further explanation.

Modi is coming to China as efforts at rapprochement gather pace following a testing year in ties between the two neighbors. The Asian giants were locked in a 73-day military stand-off in a remote, high-altitude stretch of that boundary last year. At one point, soldiers from the two sides threw stones and punches. The confrontation between the nuclear-armed powers in the Himalayas underscored Indian alarm at China’s expanding security and economic links in South Asia.

Modi will come again to China in June for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

China will also have to tread carefully to avoid giving its close ally Pakistan cause for alarm. China on Monday reassured Pakistan that relations between the two countries were as firm as ever and would “never rust”.
SOURCE: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/china-fails-to-get-indian-support-for-belt-and-road-ahead-of-summit/articleshow/63894248.cms
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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.