The star project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a mega endeavor consisting of numerous economic and infrastructure projects throughout Pakistan. The $62 billion CPEC’s main highpoints include a 3,000-kilometer network of railways, oil and gas pipelines connecting both countries, as well as new renewable energy projects.
As soon as CPEC was publicized, a shift in regional alliances was set in motion. India has from the outset opposed the CPEC and BRI – even though China has on a myriad of occasions requested them to partake in the endeavor. Ostensibly, India claims to resist the project due to it passing through Pakistan’s Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan areas (India asserts that these regions belong to them). However, their fervent distaste for CPEC is due to two other reasons. Firstly, CPEC’s success would bolster China’s position as the regional hegemon, propelling them to superpower status. Secondly, if CPEC works, Pakistan, a historic rival of India, would become a stronger and more stable regional and economic actor.
This dismays not only India but also America, which views BRI and CPEC as a threat to “its hegemony and superpower status”. China’s ultimate goal is to utilize Pakistan’s strategically positioned deep-sea port, Gwadar, for energy security purposes. CPEC and BRI thus signal a strategic and economic advantage for Pakistan and China. It is recently, especially after Trump became president, that America replaced Pakistan with India as its primary ally in South Asia and is propping up India in an attempt to negate Chinese influence. In 2018, the White House suspended $2 billion of military aid to Pakistan, while it concurrently supported India with economic and military partnerships. Where India is now placed in the warm (yet unreliable) embrace of America, Pakistan finds itself paired with its ever-loyal iron brother, China.
To dismantle CPEC, America continues to create and support discord in Pakistan’s Balochistan province which is the heart of the CPEC. In July 2016, for example, America added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to its terror list. This was worrying for both China and Pakistan as historically whenever the White House has targeted terrorist organizations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, there has been an increase in terror outbreaks in Pakistan.
This trend unfortunately has recurred not only due to the American move, but also because many terrorists had fled to Balochistan due to an ongoing Pakistani military operation in the neighbouring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Once America declared Jamaat-ul-Ahrar a terror group in July, the group’s assaults in Balochistan proliferated – the group killed 135 people mostly in Quetta in August and September 2016 alone. Analyst Ian Price asserts that it is unknown whether this effort by America to harm CPEC was premeditated or not, but the outcome, however, was predictable. Many Chinese and Pakistani analysts, politicians and army officers would agree with the senior Pakistani politician, Palwasha Khan, who argued that the American-Indian nexus is striving to undermine BRI and CPEC.
Today though, Balochistan is in a much-improved position. India’s active propagation and funding of Balochistan-based terror groups, such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), to subvert Pakistan and CPEC is still ongoing, with the CIA and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) jointly colluding in their Balochistan project. Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is cognizant of such machinations and has foiled many of their terror plans according to commentators such as Brigadier Aslam Ghuman, a retired ISI official. In 2016, Nazar Baloch, the RAW-backed Baloch Liberation Front’s (BLF) chief, publicly stated that he would welcome all assistance from India and promised further attacks on CPEC. RAW via its proxies has propagated numerous murders of Chinese engineers in Balochistan. These attacks on Chinese CPEC workers are deliberately orchestrated to unhinge China from Pakistan. In November 2018, for example, the Chinese consulate in Karachi was attacked by BLA. After investigation Amir Shaikh, the Additional Inspector General of Police, informed the press and public that the attack was planned in Afghanistan by BLA mastermind, Aslam, and executed with the support of RAW.
India’s anti-Pakistan and jingoistic prime minister, Narendra Modi, has publicly said that Baloch people thanked him for raising the issue of humanitarian violations by Pakistan – Islamabad read his statement as clear evidence of Indian meddling in the province. Simultaneously, America to support India, raised similar apprehensions of human rights violations in Balochistan. America was quick to disparage Pakistan but was ostensibly blind to the support India and its own agencies were directing towards Balochi terrorists that have injured and killed hundreds in the country. Usman Shahid, an academic, states that due to America’s record of tampering in the affairs of many nations under the pretext of human rights, Islamabad believes that America’s Balochistan agenda is “far greater that just human rights violations.” America was also fittingly blind to how India ran the office of Free Balochistan, an India-backed movement, in New Delhi in 2018.
After 9/11, India sought enhanced relations with Afghanistan, which borders Balochistan, and became a close friend, to the consternation of Pakistan. The primary reason stated by analysts for this was to squeeze Pakistan between a pro-India Afghanistan and an already hostile India. Furthermore, India uses Afghanistan’s territory to fund and train Baloch separatists. American author Webster Tarpley confirms this, noting that RAW recruits terrorists from Afghanistan to “help them to engage in terrorism inside Pakistan.”
In March 2016, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies revealed the arrest of a RAW spy named Khulbashan Yadav. Yadav has confessed on video to stating that he is a RAW agent who conducted operations to destabilize Pakistan and CPEC. He informed authorities that he was stationed in the Iranian Port City, Chahbahar, under the alias “Mubarak Patel”. Vis-à-vis Balochi terror groups, he revealed that the meetings he used to organize were intended “to see that the aims and the targets of RAW to conduct the various terrorist activities within Balochistan are conveyed properly” to the terrorists and any requirements that they needed were carried back to RAW officials. Vis-à-vis CPEC, he said “…CPEC region between Gwadar and China had to be distorted and disrupted” by proliferating the intensity of “insurgency within Balochistan and the Karachi region.”
The America-India nexus is complicit in all these crimes against Pakistan and China. America is continually supporting India’s machinations of chaos in Balochistan and other regions of Pakistan.
The policy to segregate Pakistan and subdue CPEC has failed however, as the Pakistani military’s outstanding efforts in Balochistan and FATA have normalized the security situation. The country has witnessed record lows in violence since 2014. The Pakistan Army defeated its main internal enemy, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, in Operation Zarb-E-Azb and its armed forces have been extolled internationally as one of the premier counterterrorist and conventional forces. Terrorism has decreased to record lows, tourism and investment is increasing but most significantly, BRI and CPEC are on track. Several CPEC projects have been successfully finished while work on numerous others is ongoing.