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CPEC: Chinese engagement of Baloch youth

Dr Muhammad Khan

ACCORDING to Financial Times, Chinese authorities are in a secret contact with Baloch youth, particularly those having militant trends. This all is being done to protect the $56 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). According to this newspaper, “The Chinese have quietly made a lot of progress. Even though separatists occasionally try to carry out the odd attack, they are not making a forceful push.” Though this report has been denied by Beijing, yet there is a need to analyse it in true perspective. This would enable help to clarify the confusion which may later create misunderstanding between the people of two countries.
Indeed, revelation of this report has two connotations; firstly, Pakistani authorities have not been able to convince the Baloch youth, who have anti CPEC mind-set, thus allowed the Chinese authorities to take a lead position, which means an arrangement done with the mutual consent and only once Pakistan was unable to engage its own people. Secondly, the Chinese authorities are doing this practice at their own, without taking Pakistani authorities on-board, which mean that China has deviated from its mandate and stance, as traditional stance of Beijing has been not to interfere into the affairs of other countries.
In either case, the direct contact by Chinese authorities with Baloch youth cannot be taken as a positive indication. If this has really happened, China is getting into direct contact with Pakistani nationals. Today if it is Baloch youth, tomorrow it can be any one from any part of Pakistan. Then, owing to ethnic, sectarian and factional diversity in Pakistan, such secret contacts may lead to some detrimental effects in the relationship of states. Such a conatc will provide precedence for the others to initially oppose a project and then make secret contact with any external power for the lures.
This practice will open another door, which later can be used for undesired practices. Pakistan as a state would never like that it allows its citizens to be persuaded and motivated by a third country. It is worth mentioning that, in our past history, many external powers have used the Pakistani nationals for the fulfilment of their strategic objectives. The current wave of extremism and terrorism has a deep-rooted history, where today’s super power used Pakistani soil and its people for attainment of its own strategic objectives and later abandoned them. Indeed, at global level this is part of power politics, where, the powerful make use of smaller partners as and when they need them.
Owing to its geopolitical location, Pakistan maintained lot of significance for global powers, therefore in the past, the usage of Pakistan and its people have been strategic, which hardly benefitted the state and its masses. Rather, such a usage has negatively impacted the state and society of Pakistan. In case of China, there has never been interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. It is expected that, this practice would continue, since exceeding the limits always create misunderstandings. After all Pakistan has combated the militancy in FATA, Balochistan and rest of the country at its own. Today, after lot of successes, Pakistan cannot ask a third country to have secret engagement with its nationals.
CPEC is a unique project for the economic prosperity of Pakistan and connectivity between Pakistan and China for trade, commerce and strategic linkages. For the people of Pakistan, CPEC will provide lot of opportunities for the economic prosperity, trade between Pakistan and China and for the communication and trade between various parts of Pakistan, especially the areas still not connected with major communication centres. In fact, ever since the conception of CPEC, there have been many speculations, misgivings and many conspiracy theories against the CPEC.
These misperceptions have been on account of domestic instability in Pakistan, aspects of transparency, future role of China in Pakistan and even the rightful share of each province in the CPEC. The originators of these slip-ups have been both locals and international.
Security issues of the CPEC have been raised at various levels. In fact, this aspect should not have been raised, after Pakistan Army took over the responsibility of the security of CPEC right from beginning. For this purpose, a special force of a division plus size was raised under a Major General. This security division is fully functional now with a force of 13000 men and officers. They are the best trained troops having been trained on the lines of SSG and counter terrorism. These men have already assumed their duties in those areas, where developmental work is going on the CPEC.
At the level of state, there is a need that any confusion about the CPEC and relationship between Pakistan and China has to be clarified before it creates ambiguity among the masses about this gigantic project. Moreover, the state of Pakistan has to be cautious about its sovereignty and integrity. At domestic level, it is the state’s responsibility to establish its authority and make positive engagement with its masses. This would deny the negative reporting and misperception about any external engagement of the Pakistani nationals. From the perspective of state’s sovereignty, there is need to clearly define the boundaries between various stakeholders. In any international agreement, the national interests of the state of Pakistan have to be kept supreme.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad


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