The implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) raises many questions. Is it only an economic corridor as promised by China and Pakistan? Or has it another purpose? Will it bring the promised free trade, prosperity and development to Balochistan and the other nations in the artificially constructed State of Pakistan? The answer is a clear no.
Regarding strategic designs - first Gwadar port, the end point of the CPEC, which stretches from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar, close to the Straits of Hormuz, will be in danger of being completely blocked with a high impact on international trade from around the world.
Under the cover of economic activity towards “mutual” benefit for the region, China will never admit that the CPEC is China`s Strategic Highway to the Indian Ocean connecting it to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. China would become a global player ruling the seaways and having a big impact on states like India, Japan, South Korea and Australia, whose oil transports use the Straits of Hormuz.
The Chinese are masters at strategic deception: They talk peace and prepare for war and conceal their true intentions. Just as at the Climate Conference at Paris, whilst agreeing to stop using coal in public, they began to activate coal mines in Pakistan. Europeans condemned President Trump, who honestly announced the reactivation of coal mines in the US, for this retrograde step.
Gwadar is a future Chinese ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) base which, together with the Pakistani naval bases of Karachi and Omari to which China has access, would challenge India at sea. China announced the arming of her naval fleet hoping to become the ruler of the seas of the world. They are trying to monopolise the seaways much as Britain did in the past.
The Pakistani genocide of the Baloch people and their insurgency will incur the CPEC becoming the target of terrorist attacks. So, China has forged deep links with the Taliban, even its membership based in Qatar, while Pakistan has a hold on both Taliban through the Haqqani network. The Islamic state in both Pakistan and Afghanistan is the creation of Pakistan and, most importantly, Pakistani proxies are Chinese proxies.
That is why the strategic yet undercover lodgement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in POK and Pakistan has caused terror attacks in Afghanistan and violence in Jammu and Kashmir (including ceasefire violations by Pakistan) to shoot up exponentially. Pakistan’s growing hostility towards India suits China similarly.
Repeated terror attacks in Balochistan aid Pakistan designs to subdue the Baloch population and eliminate as many non–Sunnis as possible. Terror attacks against the Baloch suit Chinese plans very well too, as they discourage Baloch insurgents from any attempts to disrupt the CPEC, which is guarded by the Pakistani Army. On balance, the CPEC has by default or design become the “Highway of Terror”, as a high officer of Indian Army commented, more for exporting terror than being subjected to terror attacks.
The massive investment in the infrastructure will result in greater power being agreed to China to influence regional affairs in economical and strategic terms.
But what will all these negative results do to the expected development in Pakistan, as pronounced by both states?
Because of the high costs for the Army, any structural weaknesses cannot get reformed. Professionalism, administrative non-partisanship and judicious handling of state resources plus socio–economic development will be replaced with unconditional loyalty to the state. All development for the people will be projected as the personal favour of the ruling elites. Such a political culture is a major obstacle to democratic consolidation. Education must be reformed as well. Extremist, radical indoctrination doesn’t make youth fit for professional jobs in the economy; on the contrary, it prevents Balochs from participating in economical projects.
Unprecedented corruption in Pakistan’s government institutions has led to the corrosion of many state institutions. Money matters the most. Criminal structures, like the mafia, are preventing any development. When an Interior Minister is also a Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, as with Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, there can be no development. His duties at the Ministry of Interior demand solutions contradictory to those for his Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms. Pakistan is a democracy on paper; all functional and democratic instruments are controlled by the Army.
The investments of China are just one way that Pakistan’s weak economy will surrender to products of the cheap markets from China.
A free trade to develop a country needs reliable structures created by state bureaucracy which works and not favoured economy.
The whole trade of the region will be blocked by the CPEC, including Afghanistan and India. India passes by Gwadar on the seaway to Chabahar port. Higher debts will press Pakistan into the hands of China, because they are obliged to underwrite the immense investments of China in energy, railways, airports, dams and ports. Until now China has overtaken Pakistan economically and strategically. They resent the fact Balochistan still exists as a state.
To give the development of Balochistan a chance, there should be first a reduction of military influence on the whole country, reliable laws for investment, open markets to the region and investments from countries the all over the world. The Pakistani Army and Chinese security forces must retire from Balochistan, madrasas should be closed and schools opened with a reformed educational system, separation of the state from religion and the building up of a working and reliable bureaucracy to invite investors from everywhere are essential.
But nothing like that happens in Pakistan. I can see only ruination for the future of the country.
Based on a speech made on 18 September 2017 in side event of Baloch Voice Association and Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland