Fri, Dec 2, 2016 | updated 11:29 PM IST

CIPEC: China India Pakistan Economic Corridor - Howzat?

Updated: Sep 12, 2016 15:17 IST

By Smita Prakash

New Delhi [India], Sept.12 (ANI): Name it China India Pakistan Economic Corridor (CIPEC) and India should not have much of a problem with that acronym, I presume. Afterall, the USD 46 billion project, currently called CPEC or China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, does pass through Indian territory which is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.

As 'CPEC' the project faces many challenges? Even before we go into the problems that India has with it, and steps that it might be taking in the near future against the project, lets look at the problems in Pakistan. The Vice Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, Zheng Xiaosong, last week told a visiting delegation of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in Beijing, "Political consensus coupled with unanimity in approach is essential to draw the maximum benefits from this mega project which is a game-changer for the region."

The provinces of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the region of Gilgit-Baltistan (part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir) have not been consulted in decision making in this project.

Even after three years of inking the deal, the federal government in Pakistan has not made public the agreements with China. The situation has come to such a head that the chief secretaries of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan did not attend the CPEC coordination meeting of the parliamentary panel which met under the chair of Senate member Daud Khan Achakzai. Important matters in connection the western route were part of the agenda. The Chinese management of the project seems to have conveyed its displeasure over the delay in several works due to a lack of political consensus.

Such is the objection to the corridor in Pakistan, that the army has had to create a separate security division comprising of 9000 soldiers and 6000 paramilitary personnel. And this, when the bulk of the corridor is not going to be operational till 2025, if it ever is built on schedule.

Five energy projects under the project umbrella, worth around USD 7 billion, are at risk of being axed owing to the slow pace of their development. If the Sharif government decides to drop these schemes, Sindh's share in the mega project will fall from USD 11.3 billion to USD 6.7 billion and Balochistan's share in CPEC projects will fall to around USD 7 billion.

As per Pakistani media reports, China is annoyed with the slow progress of the Gwadar project where it has invested in the building of a deep-water port and an arterial link road from Gwadar to Kashgar in China.

Analyst Shahzada Zulfiqar says, "According to government sources, three to four million people would migrate to Gwadar from other parts of the country. That would be tantamount to converting the local population into a minority in their own land."

As it is, Balochis have been dealing with the 'kill and dump' policy of the Pakistani Army. They fear that this could increase in the months to come.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal, a former Chief Minister of Balochistan, says that if the federal government did not accept the rights of the Baloch related to the CPEC, then its outcome would be the same as the Kalabagh Dam, which since 2004 is mired in issues and has been virtually abandoned.

And now, there is India's open objection to the CPEC project which was even hinted at by Prime Minister Modi during the recently concluded G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

While India has long maintained that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, there is a subtle shift over the past few months with greater articulation on the CPEC.

Since the project involves PoK, it is not really a mere bilateral issue between Pakistan and China. India, too, is a player, of sorts. Somewhat in the same manner as India got involved in 1971 when the East Pakistan crisis became an Indian crisis too.

All eyes are now on the Modi government to see how quickly and to what extent it wishes to escalate the Indian involvement in the CPEC project. (ANI)