Afghanistan Extension of CPEC
GS 2 Agreements Involving India &/or Affecting India’s Interests
- China and Pakistan agreed at a recent meeting in Islamabad to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.
- The decision was made despite India’s opposition regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) :
- The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that began construction in Pakistan in 2013;
- The initiative is expected to be completed by 2049.
- The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to spread Chinese investments in trade and connectivity infrastructure to bring Central Asian and European markets closer together.
- The CPEC is a 3,000 km route of infrastructure projects that aims to establish a succession of interconnected economic and trade hubs with road and rail infrastructure.
- It will connect the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China to the new Gwadar port in Pakistan’s equally restive Balochistan state.
- Initially estimated at $47 billion, the value of CPEC initiatives has increased to $62 billion by 2020.
Mutual Benefit for China and Pakistan:
- For China, the project will circumvent the Strait of Malacca, a potential choke point in a conflict with the United States or other adversaries.
- On the other hand, Pakistan expects CPEC to be a lifeline for its deteriorating economy, resulting in a multiplier effect on production and employment generation as well as sustainable economic growth.
- The move is expected to pave the way for billions of dollars to be invested in infrastructure projects in the sanctioned and economically troubled nation.
Challenges for the Project
- The initiative is behind schedule, and only three of the fifteen announced projects have been completed to date.
China’s debt trap policy
- Critics also anticipate that Pakistan’s weak economic indicators could lead to the country defaulting on its debt obligations due to the high interest rates on Chinese loans.
- China has expressed concern to Pakistan regarding the safety and security of Chinese nationals working on CPEC initiatives.
- Beijing is concerned about the number of incidents targeting Chinese citizens in Pakistan.
Violation of Indian Sovereignty:
- The project violates India’s sovereignty because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), a disputed territory between India and Pakistan.
- According to well-established international conventions, no construction is permitted in disputed territories without the consent of the other country.
Exploitation of Natural Resources
- Under CPEC, China intends to construct the Bunji Dam and Bhasha Dam on the Indus River.This will significantly stress the Indus Water Basin.
Security Concerns for India:
Increase in China’s Activities in IOR
- With Gwadar’s inclusion in CPEC, India suspects an increase in PLA Navy operations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Danger to Indian Trade and Connectivity
- The majority of India’s tangible imports pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
- In the event of a conflict, China could easily obstruct its access to the Middle East, jeopardizing India’s energy security.
Enhanced threat from Pakistan
- With the reconstruction of the Karakoram Highway, Pakistan will have an advantage in mobilizing troops and heavy military equipment to PoK.
- At the same time, an increase in financial returns to Pakistan through CPEC may increase its capacity to fund military infrastructure and state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, thereby destabilizing the region.
Suggestions for India:
- Experts have recommended that India maintain communication and cordial relations with its neighbors.
- India has done well to continue to participate in forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in order to maintain communication with both Pakistan and China.
- International Collaboration: o It is well-established that India cannot compete with China in financing development initiatives such as CPEC in other developing nations.
- Therefore, it must collaborate with organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to provide soft loans in order to prevent these nations from falling into the Chinese debt quagmire.
- Developing nations, particularly Southeast Asian nations, have placed their hopes in India to counter China’s regional hegemony.
- Here, India must rely on alliances such as Quad to maintain the power balance in the Indo-Pacific.
- While India’s position remains unchanged, China and Pakistan are eager to invite third parties into the CPEC, demonstrating China’s insensitivity to India’s concerns.
- Connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency, and equality, and must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What obstacles does the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) face? What concerns does India have about the project? How can India successfully address the CPEC challenge?