Junaid Qureshi, director of European Foundation of South Asian Studies
Junaid Qureshi, director of European Foundation of South Asian Studies

China's BRI challenges economy, sovereignty of many states, say experts

ANI | Updated: Oct 19, 2019 18:08 IST

Rotterdam [Netherlands] (ANI), Oct 19 (ANI): The destiny of the states which have been lured into the Dragon's fire of loans and debts, looks grim for the economy, sovereignty and citizens of these countries, said Junaid Qureshi, the director of the European Foundation of South Asian Studies in Rotterdam.
Junaid was speaking at an event titled 'China's Belt and Road Initiative: Violence along the Way in South Asia' at the Erasmus University.
He explained how covering an area of almost 2 million square miles and home to over a quarter of the world's population, the region of South Asia has been ridden with violent inter-ethnic conflicts, long-running devastating wars and violent extremism.
Junaid said, "Now, after more than four years since the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) officially commenced, it is high time for an assessment on how Pakistan and China have managed so far to advance this ambitious, fifteen-year project, valued currently at more than USD 62 billion".
"CPEC might come at the expense of national sovereignty and independence if Islamabad does not carefully review the financial agreements it abides to; and second, the imposition of China's terms and conditions could be hardly interpreted as a 'win-win' situation. The Gwadar Port deal vividly illustrates those claims, since the profits will be 91 per cent in favour of China in the following 40 years," he said.
He highlighted how immigrant Chinese labour force has taken many of the CPEC job prospects and that Pakistan's government has confiscated land of locals in Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan under the pretext of development and work placements.
Junaid said, "For its 70 years history, Pakistan has heavily relied on foreign aid from international monetary agencies, however, this new marriage with China is questionable as the debts it causes, may crash Pakistan's financial system, consequently reducing it to a 'vassal state'. Additionally, all the local markets have been flooded by low-cost Chinese goods, resulting in the closure of Pakistani business enterprises."
He concluded by saying that following Beijing's history of trade relations with African countries, it is evident that China is very careful about its investments by initially adopting a soft approach and thereafter quite rigid in receiving its money back.
Islamabad might have signed the CPEC agreement believing it would be advantageous to it but it actually subscribed to an unfair deal for which common Pakistanis will eventually suffer.
Another speaker at the event, Dr Prof Mansoob Murshed, Professor of the Economics of Peace and Conflict at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, discussed the theoretical and conceptual framework behind the links between trade and conflict.
He analysed the perquisites and hindrances of the two schools of thought, namely the liberal peace idea and mercantilist notion.
Haris Zargar, a PhD candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam discussed the fallout of the CPEC on the South Asian geopolitics and security.
Burzine Waghmar, Member of SOAS South Asia Institute, Centre for Iranian Studies and Centre for the Study of Pakistan, Librarian for South Asia & Indo-Iranian Languages and EFSAS Research Fellow, embarked on his presentation by quoting Christine Fair, renowned American political scientist and professor at Georgetown University, who argued that "If China took on the responsibility of managing Pakistan, Washington might be happy to wash its hands of the problem and let civilians in Islamabad and the uniformed men in Rawalpindi stab someone else in the back for a change."
Waghmar explained how Pakistan currently owes USD 6.7 bn to China in loans, twice more than it does to the IMF, namely USD 2.8 billion.
He argued that while Pakistan was enthusiastically taking Chinese money, they looked at the short-term deals for shoring over the financial crisis, without realising its medium - and long-term implications, and the Chinese leverage over Pakistan.
Thus, Pakistan is currently in slow-burn mode at both ends where the country claims to begin and end, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.
Waghmar argued that this modish fixation on showy infrastructure actually distracts from deeper problems Pakistan faces. As an example, the port of Gwadar opened since 2007, lies underutilised no thanks to the low-level insurgency in Pakistan's largest, least populated and most impoverished province, Balochistan.
In addition to that, he claimed that the old chestnut that CPEC will eradicate terrorism appears laughable especially taking into consideration the November 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi by a Baloch militant separatist group. (ANI)