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    OpinionsCPEC - A potential threat to turn Gilgit-Baltistan a battleground - II

    CPEC – A potential threat to turn Gilgit-Baltistan a battleground – II

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    CPEC – A potential threat to turn Gilgit-Baltistan a battleground – II

    By Dr Shabir Choudhry (London)

    Military aspect of the Port

    Apart from economic aspects, Gwadar also has a great strategic and military significance. Astonishingly, not much attention is given to this; and even not much has been said about a deal of eight submarines to be supplied by China to Pakistan, which will surely elevate Pakistan's naval military strength. Chinese military ships and submarines have already taken their positions in and around Gwadar.

    Panos Mourdoukoutas writes in Forbes that ‘China desperately needs the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  It's part of that nation's vision to write the rules of the next stage of globalization and help its export and investment engines grow for years to come…China has to either appease India or “forget” about the CPEC project'. 7

    The article further suggests: “If pro-Indian forces in Pakistan sabotage China's CPEC route,” China should expect an open confrontation against India, because that raises the possibility of an open confrontation between China and Pakistan on the one side, and India and its allies on the other. 8

    The recent convoy carrying goods from China to Gwadar had more than one reason. It was to credit Raheel Sharif for his services to the civilian government and to the cause of fighting terrorism. Also it was to boost the morale of the people that the CPEC is on course to success and that the civilian government is serious about all the projects related to the CPEC. It was also to demonstrate that Pakistani military had the ability to protect the route.

    The security escort involved more than a hundred personnel, and as many vehicles as there were trucks. In addition, there was helicopter protection throughout the journey, as well as drone surveillance from above. The convoy took more than two weeks to reach Gwadar, so stops had to be arranged for such a large number of trucks, which required sleeping arrangements, food and parking space.

    From Quetta to Gwadar alone, the journey took four nights, with the fifth being in Gwadar. The route is barren and empty except for two small towns along the way (Panjgur and Turbat), with no maintenance facilities for vehicular traffic, no place to get food for the drivers, and no place to spend the night.

    Providing this level of security to highly valuable convoy which had political, strategic and military significance is one thing; but will the army be able to provide this level of security to all those travelling on this route throughout the year?

    It is claimed that Key to success of CPEC is stability in Balochistan; and to some extent peace and stability in Gilgit Baltistan. Can there be peace when people are denied of their fundamental rights, their natural resources are systematically plundered; and in some areas F16, Cobra helicopters and guns are in action?

    Whether one likes it or not, fact is that there is a credible presence of tens of thousands of Chinese military personnel on the Pakistani soil and on and Kashmiri soil controlled by Pakistan. Also the Chinese navy is playing an active part in and around Gwadar. Doesn't that undermine sovereignty of Pakistan? Or is it acceptable because Chinese are paying a good price for that? Like me there will be many others who would like to know what disaster it will bring to Gilgit Baltistan?

    Apart from proxies of other countries the role of banned terrorist organizations, including Taliban and Daaesh will also be essential because some of them are extremely angry with Pakistan, and may create problems for the CPEC related projects to settle scores with the Pakistani state.

    To understand the real situation of Balochistan and possible threats to the CPEC we cannot ignore sentiments of the local people. Home Minister of Balochistan, Mir Sarfraz Bugti has stated on Saturday that 13,575 terrorists were arrested while 337 killed in around 2,825 operations in the province in 2015-16. Of course figures provided by the rebels are much higher and helps to understand gravity of the situation. 9

     

    Bramdagh Bugti, grandson of Akbar Bugti, not only thanked Modi for his open support to people of Balochistan, but also hoped Narendra Modi would raise this issue at forums. He maintained: “It is too late; we can't remain with Pakistan any longer as it has deprived us of basic rights.”

     

    Mama Qadeer, another renegade Baloch leader, told the German Radio, “India supports our cause and the Baloch people appreciate it. Islamabad takes it as Indian interference. They blamed India's RAW for the Quetta attack. They like to blame everything on RAW. The authorities even call me a RAW agent.”

    No matter how rosy picture they present of Gwadar, bitter fact is that there are severe problems which need to be resolved before smooth sailing of the CPEC. Even there is no drinking water and people are facing enormous problems.

    Gwadar is now presented as a life line to Pakistan, but not many people know that Gwadar was not part of Pakistan until 8 December 1958. Legally this territory was part of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman; and Pakistani Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon bought it for 3 million dollars.

     

    CPEC also provides China great military and strategic advantage as it will enable China to monitor Indian and American activities from Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan, especially from Gwadar. Gwadar can in future develop into a well-equipped military naval base, which would provide China an enormous strategic advantage in the region. This will result in increased rivalry in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean between India, China and other interested parties.

    Pakistan will be once again in the eye of storm; and Pakistan may not be able to deal effectively with the challenges and the mounting debts, especially with high interest rates of the CPEC loan. Perhaps to settle certain issues or for the safety and security of Pakistan they may compromise on Gwadar or some other strategic assets, even on nuclear related issues.

    My fear is because of the reasons discussed above there is danger that after sometime Gwadar may not be in control of Pakistan, as China will have a complete control of Gwadar. They will decide what to do and who should benefit from the facilities of the Chinese built port.

     

    Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch; Director Institute of Affairs. Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

     

    Northlines
    Northlines
    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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