By Sajjad Shaukat for VT
The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) organized a Seminar in the European Parliament on November 7, 2018 in Brussels, titled ‘CPEC– East India Company Mark 2?’ The Seminar was organized under the aegis of Member European Parliament (MEP) Mr. Jonathan Bullock-Member of the Committees on Budgetary Control and Industry, Research and Energy, who officially opened the Seminar.
In the Seminar, a group of international experts targeted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by discussing and speaking about this project in negative sense. Focusing on the title, they agreed that the CPEC has the marks of another East India Company for the State of Pakistan and its people. In their speeches, the participants opposed the CPEC—interrelated legal, geo-strategic, economic and environmental issues, which directly impact the stability of South Asia.
Mr. Junaid Qureshi, Director EFSAS, chaired the Seminar and gave a profound insight on the objectives of EFSAS, while also giving an introduction to the topic, particularly in relation to CPEC’s disastrous effects on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir.
Mr. Geoffrey van Orden, MEP, Chair of the Delegation for Relations with India and Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Terrorism, analyzed whether “the building of the multibillion economic corridor throughout Pakistan has parallels with the East India Company” and argued that “acquiring control of trade, inevitably translates into governmental influence, which is very well the case with CPEC.…investments on behalf of China towards Pakistan are of such colossal magnitude…Pakistan might find itself in a situation where the only possible solution for overcoming this issue is through its transfer of power, independence and sovereignty to Beijing.
Dr. Paul Stott, Lecturer at the University of Leicester and in the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London and EFSAS Research Fellow, focused on the evolution of the United States under President Donald Trump and his approach towards China and Pakistan. Dr. Stott expressed the opinion that “Pakistan has burnt its bridges with the United States and China is now one of its last options for salvage…the US sees China as an economic and military rival…the relationship Washington maintains with Islamabad is determined by the relation it maintains with Beijing…the US sees Pakistan through the prism of its connection with China.” Dr. Stott concluded by saying that the international community needs to be very critical of China, its relationships, its foreign policy, and its intentions, especially with the advent of projects like CPEC.”
Dr. Matthew McCartney, Director of the South Asia Program and Professor in the Political Economy and Human Development of India at Oxford University explained how China and Pakistan have extensive historical connections and that “the two countries’ relations go back very far while arguing that the development of CPEC is the natural course of action for the two countries.” He claimed that the financing of infrastructure by China is more opportunistic for Pakistan since the money from the IMF or the United States would have more stringent conditions and regulations…CPEC will have little impact on the prosperity of the country [Pakistan] and could prove to be negative for Pakistan.”
Dr. Dorothée Vandamme, Research Associate at the University of Louvain, Centre for the Study of Crises and International Conflicts and the Genesys Network and EFSAS Research Fellow, elaborated that the military establishment in Pakistan has vouched for a more influential and dominant role in the construction of the CPEC…this has been displayed via the safeguarding of the CPEC project by armed personnel, providing security for Chinese workers…China remains Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms.” Dr. Vandamme also argued that it is very unlikely that the new government in Pakistan will change the poor economic condition of the country due to the lack of financial aid and stated that there may be a clash between the IMF and China if Pakistan turns itself for assistance to the IMF.”
Mr. Fernando Burges, Programme Manager at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), provided his perspective on the negative repercussion stemming from the construction of the CPEC, which goes through the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan, part of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir over which Pakistan does not have any legal right. While arguing that in this backdrop, “the CPEC is illegal”, Mr. Burges remarked that “the indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan have been stripped away of their natural resources of their land and forced to accept the CPEC project without any compensation in return.”
Mr. Burzine Waghmar, Member of SOAS, University of London, Centre for the Study of Pakistan, Centre for Iranian Studies, and London Middle East Institute and EFSAS Research Fellow began his speech by quoting the American Analyst of Pakistani Studies, Christine Fair, who described the CPEC project as, “Colonizing Pakistan to Enrich China”, Mr. Waghmar stated that “it is necessary for Europe to begin to pay attention to Chinese expansionist designs, since Beijing is drafting its own parallel system of rules that can be seen mainly through its Belt and Road Initiative [BRI]”. He further said that “Gilgit-Baltistan’s arable land stands at just 1% and its population, per the 1998 census, is just under 2 million and asked where the Hunza, Burusho and other settled indigenous population will go when outside investors come in to parcel out this hilly area whose alpine ecosystem will be exposed to immense industrial upheavals and pollutants as never before in its history.” Concluding his detailed presentation, Mr. Waghmar compared Pakistan to a Greek tragedy and added that “Chinese lending is usually murky, resulting in antagonizing those very societies by debt restructuring and graft… Beijing lends, but never disburses grants”.
In addition to the above speakers, Mr. Munir Mengal of the Baloch Voice Association discussed the severe negative implications of CPEC on Balochistan [Pakistan’s province] and Mr. Jamil Maqsood of the United Kashmir People’s National Party elaborated upon the human rights violations in Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan due to the construction of this multibillion-dollar project.
The Seminar which was organized by the anti-Pakistan and China entities was, in fact, part of the US-led West’s propaganda campaign against the CPEC. It also showed double game and contradictory approach of these entities in connection with Beijing and Islamabad.
It is notable that in June, this year, a seminar titled “Pakistan’s New Role between China and Europe; Opportunities and Challenges of China’s Silk Road Project” was organised by the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) in Vienna city.
It was hosted by Dr. Werner Fasslabend, former defense minister and president of AIES, The event was co-hosted by Austria National Defence Academy and the Universal Peace Federation that were represented by Brigadier Walter Feichtinger and Mr Peter Haider respectively. It was attended by over 70 scholars, analysts, ambassadors, diplomats, UN representatives and members of civil society.
On the occasion, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan hoped that Pakistan would be among top economies of the world by 2050. Explaining the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the president said that it was an unprecedented transcontinental project spanning Asia, Europe and Africa aiming for global connectivity and economic prosperity. He stated that with massive potential that initiative covered 68 countries with plans to invest over US $ 1 trillion in infrastructure, energy, and industrial projects.
Underlining the importance of the European Union, President Masood illustrated that “EU’s market of 460 million people…makes it imperative that modern connectivity channels are established…investments in Europe by China in energy, telecommunication, real estate sector and similarly Europe’s investment in industrial and services sectors in China have created mutual dependencies.”
The president stated that the CPEC was the “flagship project and an offshoot of the BRI. Pakistan’s role can or will play between Europe and China within the framework of the BRI and CPEC…both the BRI and CPEC are a conscious effort to reach out to Europe which will bring Europe closer to Chinese markets…the CPEC, is not just a stand-alone project. It is developed into a network for connecting East Asia, South Asia, Central, West, and Southwest Asia…now many states were showing interest in it and had already attracted the attention of Russia, Turkey, Italy, France and the UK and several other European countries were already consulting with Pakistan and China to participate in CPEC projects…the Gwadar Port, in particular would give Russia access to warm waters via Central Asia for international trade, helping begin a new phase of cooperation between Russia and Pakistan.”
President Masood Khan remarked that concerted “joint investments by Europe, Pakistan and China under the umbrella of CPEC would create huge opportunities for livelihoods, businesses and human development…it would build bridges between Europe and China, Europe and Asia…Pakistan would play a pivotal part in the process”.
Responding to the questions, the president said that “the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be resolved in accordance with the mechanisms established by the United Nations for the pacific settlement of disputes…Azad Kashmir promotes and protects human rights, whereas the human rights situation on the Indian Occupied Kashmir is horrendous,” and he strongly urged “the international community to intercede to put an end to human rights crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir”.
It is mentionable that since 2016, many countries such as UK, Germany, Russia France, Belarush, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan etc. have shown their willingness to join the CPEC.
In this connection, Times of Islamabad wrote on May 15, 2018, “Leading European country France has expressed desire to join the multibillion dollar CPEC…French companies would like to explore the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and try to discuss entry points after negotiations, Ambassador of France to Pakistan Dr Marc Barety said in a statement…The French president during his recent visit to China had already given his views on the CPEC which he believed to be a good connectivity for the region.”
Times of Islamabad wrote on September 5, 2018, “Several countries in the Middle East and Africa have expressed their intentions of joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), demonstrating their confidence in the potential of Gwadar-A deep-sea port in southern Pakistan…offering Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia an opportunity to re-establish their trading routes through the new global overture, according to an article published by China.org.cn….Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan last year clearly voiced his country’s interest in the CPEC and in investing in Gwadar. Considered a leading voice of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia can marshal the region to connect with Gwadar and access China’s markets. The UAE has also been playing an encouraging role. Against the speculations of certain circles which intend to pitch Dubai and Gwadar as rivals, the UAE started commercial shipping under the CPEC through Gwadar in March this year.”
It is of particular attention that India was openly opposing the CPEC and China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or BRI; the US also joined New Delhi. In this context, on October 3, 2017, US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Lawmakers, “The United States has reiterated its support for India’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative…the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a part of which traverses Pakistan-Kashmir.”
Islamabad strongly dismissed the statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-dollar road and rail network “CPEC which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, passes through a disputed territory of Kashmir”, urging “the international community to focus on blatant human rights violations and heinous crimes committed by Indian occupation forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir” (IOK), and reminded the US that Washington had also participated in an OBOR summit.
Earlier, a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying that the OBOR plan was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative.
In this context, repeated threats of the US President Donald Trump and top American officials to Islamabad and other moves like suspension of latter’s aid were part of the same scheme to thwart the CPEC.
The fact is that Indian lobbies which are well-penetrated in the US administration and Europe, research centers, think tanks and so-called human rights groups utilize the media tools in defaming Pakistan internationally. Especially, Indian RAW is availing the opportunity of the US-led organized propaganda campaign against Pakistan. Now, CPEC is special target of these hostile entities.
In this respect, much coverage was given by the external media to a report, released on April 13, 2017 by Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) which is in partnership with Mahatma Gandhi International AISBL. The subject report portrayed complete Indian negative propaganda themes about the provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan and Sindh. Based on falsehood, the report also said that the CPEC is breach of international law and is being implemented without consultation or compensation to the people of the area.
Undoubtedly, GB is the gateway of CPEC into Pakistan, whereby GB’s strategic and socio-economic importance has increased manifold. Like Balochistan, the region has huge potential in trade with China, tourism, minerals, gems, precious stones, agriculture-farming and hydro power production. Therefore, GB’s people who are strengthening their association with Pakistan, pays no attention to the false propaganda.
While, these US-led Western entities who also give undue coverage to the meetings and protests against the integrity of Pakistan, are particularly exaggerating the statements of those Baloch leaders who have taken shelter in Europe and America, and are fulfilling the agenda of their foreign masters against the CPEC.
In this connection, RAW and American CIA arranged a meeting of Baloch Sub-Nationalists, SSNs (Sindhi-Sub- Nationalists) and the USNs (Uyghur Sub-Nationalists of China) on the termination of 35th Session of Human Rights Counsel in Geneva from 12-14 June 2017. The agenda was; planning against the CPEC/Pak-China’s interests in the region. Mehran Marri attended the conference and delivered a speech (reportedly prepared by RAW) alleging CPEC as exploitation projects and Baloch cultural genocide by Pakistan and China. Representatives of World Sindh Congress (WSC), Uyghur human rights activists, Rebiya Kadeer and Dolikun Aeysa were also present in the said conference.
The reality is that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods.
When Gwadar seaport becomes fully operational, it would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. Being the commercial hub, the port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan like the Suez Canal which changed the destiny of Egypt when Israel returned it to the former. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans. Gwadar project which is backbone of the CPEC will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, including developments in other provinces by providing thousands of employment opportunities, especially to the less developed areas by redressing their grievances. The resulting prosperity in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan would damp the separatist sentiments of the people, which the hostile elements, supported by the US, India and Israeli do not want. Therefore, these entities and their media describe the CPEC in negative terms.
However, terror-attacks to destabilize Pakistan have coincided with a continued propaganda campaign, launched through the US-led entities against Pakistan.
As a matter of fact, since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, the country has become center of CIA, RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in connivance to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these foreign agencies which are also in collaboration with the Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS), support the militants of ISIS and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the secret strategy of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist outfits are weakening Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive activities.
It is noteworthy that on March 24, 2016, Pakistan’s security forces disclosed that they arrested the serving agent of RAW in Balochistan. During investigation and in a video, shown on Pakistan’s TV channels, RAW agent Kulbushan Yadav confessed that “he was the agent of RAW” and “during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents, including Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, to execute the task to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” project.
It is also of particular attention that armed forces of Pakistan have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. And Pakistan’s primarily intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. But, in the recent past and during the election-campaign of 2019, blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country showed that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage especially to destabilize Pakistan and to damage the CPEC.
Notably, the assassination of religious clear Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the “Father of the Taliban” on November 2, this year in Islamabad was part of the same scheme to weaken Pakistan.
His son Maulana Hamidul Haq told the media that his father was receiving threats from the Afghan government.
In fact, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to end country’s reliance on the IMF which is under the control of Zionist led America. In this regard, during the second visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the latter agreed on October 23, 2018 to provide $3 billion for a period of one year to address country’s balance-of-payments crisis. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Pakistan’s Federal Finance Minister Asad Umar and his Saudi counterpart Muhammad Abdullah Al-Jadaan. It was agreed that a one-year deferred payment facility for import of oil, up to $3 billion, will be provided by Riyadh. This arrangement will be for three years, after which it will be reviewed. So, it is total $6 billion which Saudi Arabia will give to Pakistan.
Riyadh also confirmed its interest in investing in a petroleum refinery in Pakistan. The Kingdom also expressed interest in the development of mineral resources in Pakistan. In this connection, the federal government will hold consultations with the Balochistan government, following which a Saudi delegation will be invited to Pakistan to finalise matters. Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman agreed to the premier’s suggestion for reduction of Saudi visa fee for Pakistani workers.
Regarding the first trip of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry had told in a news conference on September 20, 2018 that Riyadh has agreed to join and invest heavily in its ongoing China-funded bilateral infrastructure and industrial development projects—China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He added, “Saudi Arabia is the first country that we have invited to become a third partner in CPEC.”
Besides, Prime Minister Khan had also confirmed that Pakistan was also in talks with the IMF over a bailout. While, Khan has in recent days sought to avoid going to the IMF and still wants to at least reduce the size of any bailout by appealing to friendly countries for bilateral financial support.
The Saudi pledge came days after the State Bank warned inflation could double in the coming year—hitting 7.5 percent—while the country’s growth target rate of 6.2 percent would likely be missed. Federal Finance Minister Umar had warned on October 13, 2018 that the country was fast heading towards bankruptcy.
An IMF team arrived in Pakistan on November 7, 2018 and in the negotiations, offered tough ‘conditionalities’—to increase the prices of electricity and gas, and suggested of eliminating electricity subsidies.
During the four-day visit of Premier Khan to China, Beijing on November 2, 2018, reportedly agreed to provide USD 6 billion in aid to cash-strapped Pakistan to minimise its dependence on an IMF bailout package. A loan of USD 1.5 billion is also expected to be offered, along with an additional package of USD three billion for CPEC. The loan and the investments were reportedly part of the USD six billion package. According to the joint statement, released on November 4, 2018, the two sides also signed fifteen Agreements/MoUs on a range of bilateral issues.
Pakistan and China also agreed to trade in their local currencies in an effort to reduce dependence on the US dollar. Particularly, Pakistan will save more than 12 billion dollars annually by importing goods in its local currency.
It is worth-mentioning that reacting to China’s policies, the US National Security Advisor John Bolton allegedly said: “China is engaging in a behaviour that is troubling a lot of nations in the region, including India and Japan.”
As regards civil-military relations, both army and the government of P.M. Imran Khan are on one page. But these US-led entities are trying to create a rift between the present rulers and army.
It is notable that Afghanistan which is in the phase of transition, moving from crisis to stability, has expressed a strong desire to join the multi-billion economic opportunity of the CPEC, when in October 2016, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, emphasized upon his country’s interest in joining the CPEC.
It is mentionable that the American President Trump has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal and is following war-mongering diplomacy against Tehran by imposing and toughening sanctions, while Israel is also doing the same against Iran.
Meanwhile, the US has decided to grant India a waiver from Iran sanctions, which would allow Indian oilNSE 4.51 % companies to continue to import about 1.25 million tonnes of oil a month till March from Tehran. Washington also re-imposed oil-related sanctions on Iran on November 4, this year.
As new alliance of Russia, China, Pakistan and Turkey is emerging to check the influence of the US in Afghanistan and the Middle East, therefore, Iran could abandon the US-backed India-Afghanistan Chabahar project and could join the CPEC project. Ankara could also join the CEPEC.
Recall when during the Musharraf regime, with the Chinese assistance, Pakistan initiated the construction of Gwadar deep-seaport in the Balochistan province in March 2002; sirens went off in the capitals of foreign countries, particularly the US, India and Israel who took it as a threat to their global and regional plans.
Balochistan’s ideal strategic location, its abundant mineral resources like gas, coal and gold, entailing Pakistan’s close ties with China already pinches the eyes of America, India, Israel and some Western countries like UK, which have been destabilizing Pakistan for their collective aims. In fact, being the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, Pakistan was already on the hit-list of the US-led India and Israel, including some Western countries. But, after the shift of the Great Game from Central Asia to Pakistan-the CPEC, CIA, RAW and Mossad, including British MI6 have been supporting various terrorism related attacks, including sectarian and ethnic violence in various cities of the Pakistan, while backing separatist elements in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan provinces. Now, the CPEC which infuriates these US-led Western entities has become their particular target.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org