On 12 December, The Times of India published an interview of the Hurriyat leader from the Indian-Held Kashmir, Mirwaiz Farooq, who said that Kashmir could a gateway to India joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He highly appreciated the CPEC and said that “in terms of larger economic activity, everybody wants to be part of the CPEC.”
He elaborated further by saying that the CPEC “is an opportunity for Jammu & Kashmir also to be part of the old Silk Route, once again”. “We can be part of the CPEC, even before the resolution of Kashmir issue and become a part of Central Asian discourse rather than Couth Asian discourse.’, he pointed out. He concluded by saying that “Kashmir can be gateway for India as well and am sure India will also want to be part of the CPEC.”
These were the honest views of Mirwaiz reflecting the inner feelings of the people of Kashmir about joining of the CPEC. This will change their miserable economic fate and will seek a new connectivity with China, Pakistan, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Russia through Gwadar for a landlocked Kashmir, wishing liberation and prosperity as their inalienable rights. It is hoped that the Modi Sarkar would give a serious thought of joining the CPEC and would review its anti-CPEC strategy.
After political voice from within Kashmir, a military voice from Pakistan has joined the idea of Mirwaiz within days. Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz, Commander of the Southern Command, Quetta, asked India to join the CPEC on 21 December. The cross-border voices should be given a serious thought, which would be a indirect step toward the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
On 23 December, Chinese Foreign Ministry wonders if India would accept the Pakistani good will offer to India of joining the CPEC, which is an open and inclusive project to promote the long-term regional development and peace. The mouth-piece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Global Times, wrote that “New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
The multi-billion and multi-dimensional CPEC is considered to be great game changer and its has the capacity to even change the exiting geo-strategic and geo-economic game between Pakistan and India. The CPEC could become a new CBM (Confidence Building Measure) between the two arch rivals and addressing the recent spade of military and diplomatic violence.
Traditionally, India has the following four major points of disagreements on the CPEC:
1. The CPEC is a unilaterally decided between Pakistan and China
2. The CPEC goes through the dispute territory between Pakistan and India
3. The CPEC would promote terrorism across the Indian-Held Kashmir
4. Indian strategic community thinks Gwadar Port will be used by China for military purposes.
These objections could be clarified. All of these are misperceptions about the CPEC. The first point that the CPEC was unilaterally decided Pakistan and China is incorrect. The CPEC is a bilateral agreement between Pakistan and China and it was not a trilateral agreement. India has been invited to join the CPEC.
The CPEC at present does not go into any disputed territory between Pakistan and India such as the Line of Control (LoC). Gilgit and Baltistan were and are under the actual control of Pakistan, and China and Pakistan redefined a border in 1963 comprising that area. The British authorities in India remained unable to define that border.
The CPEC does not promote terrorism rather terrorism is a threat to the CPEC and the political voice inside the Indian-Held Kashmir verifies this claim. Gwadar is pure commercial project and China has never asked Pakistan to use the port for naval purposes. Gwadar would be developed on the pattern of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai and it would never be converted into a “Chinese Diego Garcia”.
Russia, France, and Germany have shown interest to join the CPEC. If these far-flung European countries could be attracted to the CPEC, it would be unfortunate that the people of adjoining Kashmir could be deprived of the CPEC benefits and connectivity.
China wishes to share development experience it gained in the past 35 years with other countries. China does not seek domination and influence under the OBOR and CPEC. China has learnt a great deal of lessons from the Soviet demise during the Cold War and the American military domination of the world during and after the Cold War. China would certainly not repeat such strategic blunders.
Under the OBOR, Eurasian region will be benefited and under the CPEC Pakistan would be benefited by offering opportunities to all its surrounding regions. The forced isolation of Kashmir from the CPEC would be considered as a major stumbling block and a challenge to change fate of the poverty-ridden people Kashmir. The people of Kashmir could learn a great deal of lesson from Chinese experiences.
Like western China, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, Kashmir is also a landlocked. The area can be left alone because that it is disputed and no development could be carried out.
The China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963 asked for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and on the basis of that resolution boundary could be re-defined depending on the future sovereign authority of Kashmir. The CPEC offer even a better opportunity to address the Kashmir dispute.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs