March 30, 2017
Views from Srinagar
Abdul Latif Bhat
SRINAGAR Experts on China-Pakistan-India relations on Saturday said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a 46-billion US dollar economic project of China, will have a definite impact on Kashmir and that Kashmir needs to put itself in South Asian and Central Asian paradigm to reap dividends.
The economic, political and geo-strategic aspects of CPEC were discussed in a seminar titled “Impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor on Kashmir”. The speakers gave a detailed outline of how the project will seriously impact the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, both politically and economically.
The seminar was organized by The Kashmir Institute – a Srinagar based think-tank, with Siddiq Wahid, historian and former V-C IUST; Andrew Small, author of The China Pakistan Axis; Mubeen Shah, ex-president, KCCI; Zubair A. Dar, researcher Economy and Resources at University of Berkeley and Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim, Economist from University of Kashmir – moderated by political commentator and journalist, Gowhar Geelani.
It was the first event of the think-tank and its Director hailed everyone’s support for it to be established and begin with the seminar. The Director, Fahad Shah, spoke about the importance of the think-tank and also gave brief introduction to how the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor began and what is its current stage and how in the long run it is going to change the political and economic scenario of South Asia.
Andrew Small while explaining the economic and political significance of the CPEC said China is investing between 28 to 53 billion US dollars in the CPEC project. “China’s economy is in a transition phase right now. The growth rate has decreased and it is looking for new markets. Privileged access will be given to Chinese industries inside Pakistan. China has in the recent past made statements on Pakistan’s policy on the region including the Kashmiri militant groups and Kashmir itself through which some of the corridor route passes,” he said.
Siddiq Wahid – in past economic spaces used to be smaller and now in relation to CPEC and look at geopolitics economic spaces have gotten larger with smaller political spaces. The power lies within states or the empires. We need to put CPEC beyond India and Pakistan, and this would put Kashmir in larger South Asia and Central Asia paradigm. In general it is good for us as Kashmiris to be talking to China because India shares an immense border with china.
Most of the Indians do not care about Kashmir if their financial bottom line is fine. And most of the Pakistanis don’t know what is happening in Kashmir. We people of Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu and Gilgit Balstistan are on the periphery of the South Asia and Central Asia – so we have to take Jammu and Kashmir out of India-Pakistan paradigm. I don’t want to think of Kashmir as a buffer zone because it has connotations as a shock absorber. If CPEC happens it is we the people of Kashmir who will have control to how we create capacity.
Mubeen Shah strongly advocated for two divides sides of Kashmir to be as single free economic zone. “Both India and Pakistan need to be specific about political positions. Kashmir could actually become – trade will decide the future of Kashmir. CPEC might not change everything but it is a first step towards final settlement of Kashmir, giving examples of Dubai and Shangai. We can focus on horticulture, textiles and other industries. How distance will be reduced and the road between Kashmir and Central Asia will be much cheaper,” he said.
Zubair A. Dar spoke about how this will reduce the distance and how this could have huge impact in terms of environment and the pollution will affect Kashmir at large scale. “It is much deeper strategic partnership supported by military power. If Iran also becomes a part of CPEC and convinces Pakistan to use Chabahar port in Iran and then Afghanistan will join too. Developments in Pakistan-administered Kashmir will be impacted the most because China will be building several development projects leading to Chinese economic military colonization. China has own model how they work, maybe when CPEC becomes more powerful and economically beneficial then maybe India will change its mind. Economy drives the politics of any place including Kashmir,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim gave a brief introduction of the whole CPEC project in relation to Kashmir, and explained the significance. “India is not in favour of the CPEC because they are more interested in Chabahar port. Kashmir is important to Pakistan in terms of water resources. Maybe CPEC could in future help in the peace process between both the countries and geo-economics can actually impact the geo-politics,” he said.
At the seminar, the think-tank also re-launched its in-house publication Mizraab, which a monthly tabloid.