A great game

A great game

On 06 Mar 17, the Pakistan government announced its’ decision to build a 'CPEC Tower' in Islamabad, after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The 'CPEC Tower', touted as 'iconic' by Minister for Planning, Development & Reforms..

Why is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) such a challenge to India?

On 06 Mar 17, the Pakistan government announced its’ decision to build a 'CPEC Tower' in Islamabad, after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The 'CPEC Tower', touted as 'iconic' by Minister for Planning, Development & Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, is to become the tallest building in the federal capital and will attract investors and serve as a symbol of Pak-China friendship. A high-level committee to be headed by Malik Ahmed Khan, member infrastructure of the Planning Ministry, will work on the proposed CPEC Tower.

CPEC

If connectivity is becoming the basis of new geopolitics, the CPEC could be rated the year’s most potent symbol of the 21st Century version of the Great Game. A Great Game whose outwards manifestations are multi-lane highways, pipelines, railways and container traffic. The CPEC functions on a number of different levels. Symbolically it is evidence of the economic benefits that countries that ally with Beijing, can expect. Besides trade and transit, Pakistan expects it will also bring employment and prosperity. If successful, Beijing would be able to argue it succeeded where Washington and Moscow, had failed.

China’s Compelling Argument

India’s primary opposition to the CPEC , is that its alignment passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and thus violates India’s sovereignty. China draws comparison to Taiwan, which it considers  a breakaway region. Taiwan, has a independent democracy with a free press, but is officially an integral part of the Peoples Republic of China. Beijing claims Taiwan is a breakaway region, to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including India, follow the “One-China” policy, recognising China’s authority over Taiwan’s. However, India also maintains trade and economic ties with Taiwan – so does China itself, while calling it one of its “provinces”. 

Beijing doesn't object to any economic links between Taiwan and other countries; but insists on acceptance of ‘One-China’ policy, as a precondition. China says that the CPEC won't affect the status of the Kashmir disputes and that India should endorse, even participate in the project, as an economic plan to improve the lives of people.

Assessment

Pakistan claims Kashmir and occupies a part of it, unlike Taiwan, which seeks independence from the PRC Thus, the comparison between Taiwan and POK, maybe more than a little misplaced.

The CPEC passes close to the Siachen Glacier, which India wrested from Pakistan occupation in 1984. Maintaining troops in artic conditions of the glacier has been expensive to both countries, in terms of lives and financial burden. In recent years, Pakistan has sought to demilitarize the glacier. However India, particularly after the Kargil war, remains suspicious of Pakistan’s motives in Kashmir. India is understandably reluctant to vacate the posts on the glacier, gained at such great cost, unless there are iron-clad guarantees that they will not be reoccupied by Pakistan. India is not also comfortable with Gwadar, located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, being used as a Chinese Naval base. It may be difficult for India to endorse the CPEC, unless the seven-decade Kashmir dispute is addressed, first.

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