Alarm bells are ringing for the Baloch of Balochistan that their historic land may soon be taken over by the Chinese: nearly six times more Chinese will live in Gwadar town by year 2023 as there are Baloch in Gwadar today, a new report has bared.
According to the report in The News International last week, the China Pak Investment Corporation (CPIC) announced a mega housing project called China Pak Hills at a press conference in London. The chief executive officer of CPIC, Jian Zheng, announced plans to invest $500 million in first phase of the controversial housing project called China Pak Hills to house around half million Chinese professionals by 2023. The unprecedented development project will span over 10 million square feet across three phases. Jian Zheng said the CPIC has joined hands with the multi-billion state-owned Top International Engineering Corporation (TIEC) for developing the project.
Islamabad has refuted the report saying that the Gwadar Port Authority has not allowed any China Pak Hills project, calling it phony, but the CPIC presented documentary evidence to the contrary that shows the company does have the no objection certificate from the authority for the International Port City Project. The project is being rechristened as China Pak Hills and a letter was submitted to the Gwadar authorities on October 5, the CPIC put the record straight.
Gwadar District, that abuts the strategic Straits of Hormuz, is in the total control of Pakistan army that guards all the exit and entry points. As if with an adrenalin rush, the southern command of the Pakistan army, headed by Corps Commander Lt. Gen Amir Riaz, is protecting the over ambitious One Belt One Road initiative of China’s President Xi Jinping – elevated recently in the Communist Party as the new Mao Tse Tung.
The Chinese and Pakistan army are promising that Gwadar will be turned into another Shenzen—which was a poor Chinese town in 1979 but now a model city symbolizing Chinese economic genius. Beijing is calling Gwadar the ‘Gateway City’ for the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but the Baloch freedom fighters have vowed they will resist the Chinese plans to take over Gwadar; their concerns are slowly but surely being voiced in Washington DC.
The native Baloch are angry and fighting back, sometimes poorly. “China is violating Article 8 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” former Balochistan fisheries minister Kachkol Ali, a leader of the Baloch National Movement, who now lives in exile in Norway, tweeted. Article 8 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples states indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture and makes it incumbent upon States to provide effective mechanisms for prevention of any action which can deprive them of their integrity as distinct peoples or dispossess them of their lands, territories or resources.
While New Delhi is fuming over Beijing’s designs as it eyes Gwadar Port as part of the Indian Ocean—but appears shy to invest in measures to counter them–, it is unlikely the US which has always called the warm waters of the Arabian or Persian Gulf, as an area of its vital interests will allow the Chinese to take over Gwadar.
Americans are calling upon their government to take immediate notice of the Chinese designs. “China has built the Gwadar Port big enough to dock eight Chinese battleships,” says Jane Eastwood Weisner, director of the American Friends of Balochistan. She says if the US was truly concerned about China, the country would be helping Balochistan gain its freedom from Pakistan. “Interestingly, China is building islands in the South China Sea to expand its control. The Silk Sea Road is being built for expanding economic growth and Chinese naval power.”
She accused China of eyeing Balochistan’s rich oil, natural gas, gold and uranium. “The Economic Corridor being built across Pakistan runs across occupied Balochistan. China has taken billion of dollars in gold out of mines in occupied Balochistan.” Weisner, an avowed liberal democrat, is calling upon the Americans to remember where US manufacturing power went– China. “The Dragon has its Eye on the world like never before.” Weisner counsels “America First, should mean America’s Interest First!”
US scholar Prof Christine Fair, who believes China views Pakistan as a condom to screw India, has called the $62 billion CPEC project China’s Pakistan Exploitation Corridor. In an article in Foreign Policy magazine she wrote, “The local Baloch people deeply resent the plan because it will fundamentally change the demography of the area. Before the expansion of Gwadar, the population of the area was 70,000. If the project comes to full fruition the population would be closer to 2 million — most of whom would be non-Baloch. Many poor Baloch have already been displaced from the area. Since construction has begun, there have been numerous attacks against Chinese personnel, among other workers.” Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Prof Fair has also spoken at Balochistan related events in Washington DC to highlight the dangers of CPEC.
The US defense establishment has already rejected the OBOR. “In a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’,” US secretary of Defense Gen Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing earlier this month.
“That said, the One Belt One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think, that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” Mattis said apparently referring to India’s position on CPEC.
Back in Balochistan, the overzealous but under-funded and under-trained Baloch militants attacks on CPEC have at times backfired. For example, in spring this year the Baloch Liberation Front of Dr Allah Nazar attacked a workers’ camp in Gwadar, killing Sindhi laborers execution style. The killings were used by the Pakistan intelligence services to spark outrage against the Baloch movement in Sindh