New Delhi: In late 2015 when India started developing its military base at strategic Campbell Bay in Andaman and Nicobar islands, Chinese authorities started feeling a pinch as India was able to choke the Strait of Malacca at its will from where 80% of Chinese trade passes through. Also Read - Vision of US For Sri Lanka Very Different From ‘Predator’ China, Says Pompeo
Further, due to aggressive US posturing in South China sea, the Chinese government had to find an alternative for its supply needs and the Pakistan-based China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a natural choice. It was to provide not only a warm water port but also a military hub to China. Also Read - 'I Stand with France' Trends in India as Emmanuel Macron Faces Outrage From Pakistan, Turkey, Others
It was beneficial to China especially in a situation where Pakistan is totally isolated from the world over terror issues & due to the Chinese debt trap, is compelled to dance to its tunes. Also Read - 'Stop Sowing Discord Between China, Regional Countries': Beijing Slams Mike Pompeo's India Visit
Recent statement by Pakistan’s Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan affairs Ali Amin Gandapur puts some light on the same very fact. Gandapur said that his PM Imran Khan Niazi will soon announce Gilgit Baltistan (GB) as a full-fledged fifth province of Pakistan.
As per my own assessment, such a statement cannot be issued unless China itself pushed for it. It was necessary because after facing globalcriticism over COVID19 issues, China would not like its investments & trade routes passing through a disputed zone. Afterall it has so far invested more than 60 Billion USDin addition to massiveundisclosed loans given to Pakistan government.
Today’s statement where China vehemently opposed the UT status of Ladakh & criticised the developmental projects is another indicator to this since GB had been an integral part of Ladakh in the past.
China is considering CPEC as a lifeline & hence it is pumping more and more money in the project. With the slow progress of BRI in the Caucasus region, it is left with this only alternative where Pakistan is in no state of refusal. The pace of expansion of CPEC in GB is high as compared to other zones of Pakistan. This became further evident when on 8th June 2020 Pakistani govt sanctioned another $7.2 Billion to upgrade/Construct a railway line connecting Gwadar to Kashgar-China with 100% Chinese funding.
This connectivity is in addition to a dedicated oil pipeline & road connectivity between these two cities. To utilise this network to the optimum, China is alsoestablishing a 500 Acre Moqpondass Special Economic Zone also in the area purely aimed at developing additional export channels.
In the field of Energy, China is constructing a 7100 MW hydro plant in Bunji with a funding of $8.1Bn & a smaller Tangir Dam in the vicinity. In addition to this, China also funding much discussed Diamer-Bhasha Dam (4500MW)&working out feasibility at four other sites. These are Yugo (520MW), Skardu (1600MW), Tungus (2200MW) &Yulbo (2800MW). All of theseon a precondition that Pakistan will buy the entire electricity produced from these plants at a tariff fixed by Chinese authorities. The debt trap is visible.
But things are not going to be easy for both Pakistan & China if they go ahead on the proposal to declare GB as a state of Pakistan. There are serious resentments in the public against joining Pakistan.
1) One of the issues is Land Acquisition for these projects which was done under an old archaic rule of erstwhile Dogra kingdom. This rule allows the takeover of any community land without any compensation for government projects.
2) The second issue is the extreme low human development index in GB. Over the years, Pakistan government did nothing for the residents of this area. No roads, no health facilities & no welfare set up. Resentments are obvious.
3) The third issue is related to ethnic minorities of this area who have been staying peacefully for last three millennia. Most of the population of this area is Shia & their apprehension of an ethnic cleansing under the rule of ahardcore Sunni Pakistan cannot be ruled out. The pathetic state of Hazara, Ahmadi, Shia & other non-Sunni Islamic groups in Pakistan is an evidence to the world.
4) Fourth issue is pertaining to settlement of displaced families due to these CPEC projects. Pakistan did nothing in this regard. Thousands of the families still awaiting their dues.
Now on the instance of China, Imran Khan Niazi is playing the statehood card for GB so that it can appease its residents by the privileges available only to the residents of Pakistan. Surprisingly, the poor residents don’t know what kind of services a common Pakistanigets. To know they must see the status of a commoner in Karachi.
(Amit Bansal is a Defence Strategist with keen interests in International Relations and Internal Security. He is also an author, blogger and poet.)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India.com. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.