• Kashmiris need to take CPEC out of Indo-Pak paradigm and into Central Asian paradigm
• CPEC will bring environmental concerns for Kashmir
• It will help Kashmir economy
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has directly involved Beijing in the risks of New Delhi-Islamabad relations, a US-China expert Andrew Small told a Kashmiri audience here Saturday.
Speaking at a programme ‘Impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor on Kashmir’ organised by the Kashmir Institute, Small, the author of China-Pakistan Axis, in his video lecture said CPEC had directly involved China in the risks of India-Pakistan relations and the India-Pakistan cross-border relations.
“China would like to use Pakistani ports both for the People’s Liberation Army and for the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy,” he said.
Small also referred to the Beijing’s stand after the Uri attack urging both New Delhi and Islamabad to bring down tensions in the region stressing that such atmosphere could create difficulties for CPEC.
After the Uri attacks, Beijing had said it was in touch with both New Delhi and Islamabad through different channels to bring down tensions, and asked them to properly deal with their differences and work jointly to maintain peace and security in the region.
“We hope India and Pakistan can enhance communication and properly deal with differences and work jointly to maintain peace and security of the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had told a media briefing in Beijing in the aftermath of September 18, 2016 Uri attack on an Army camp by four gunmen that had left 17 Army men killed and around 30 injured.
Pakistan is currently building the warm-water, deep-sea Gwadar Port with the assistance of China that is investing a whopping 46 billion US dollars on CPEC linking Gwadar Port with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China.
CPEC is the Chinese dream of ‘One Belt, One Road’ and Gwadar holds the key to improve China’s connectivity with South, West, Central and East Asia, which would in turn have implications in limiting India’s outreach to the critical Eurasian region.
Noted academic Siddiq Wahid said people of Jammu Kashmir needed to take CPEC out of the India-Pakistan paradigm and put it into the paradigm of Central Asia.
“If there will be an impact on Jammu Kashmir due to CPEC, it won’t be because of India and Pakistan, it has to be because of Kashmiris,” he said. “We have got to do it for ourselves.”
Wahid, the former vice chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), said the economy of Kashmir was closer to the economy of Kashgar than to Jammu or Lahore and Kashmir’s proximity was more to Central Asia than South Asia.
“Globalisation is threatening the status quo states as empires and colony states do not want their borders to be opaque and we need to be ready for fitting in when the next collapse happens,” he said.
Wahid said the weak point of CPEC was that it did not help the people on the way (of the project) – Kashgar, Yarkhand, Leh, Srinagar.
He said India was on the wrong side of history right now and for that to change, New Delhi needed to give up its rigid stance on Kashmir.
“Things change,” Wahid said. “Who could have predicted that the Soviet Union will collapse, the European Union will disintegrate?”
On a question of Indian Express Deputy Editor, Muzamil Jaleel whether CPEC would impact what New Delhi was doing in Kashmir and Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief Shujaat Bukhari that CPEC may cause more confrontation between India and Pakistan as New Delhi sees CPEC as a threat and a game changer in the region, Wahid said, “We can be in the centre of the theatre.”
For countering the influence that Gwadar Port would have on the future of economics in the region, New Delhi is actively involved in the construction of Chabahar Port, 72 km west of Gwadar.
Chabahar Port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran’s southern coast lies outside the Persian Gulf which is easily accessed from India’s western coast bypassing Pakistan.
New Delhi entered into a deal with Tehran to develop the strategic Chabahar Port to gain access to the Middle East and Central Asia and to counter Pakistan and China’s plan to develop Gwadar Port.
India has committed a 400 million US dollar investment in steel to construction of the railway connecting Chabahar and Zahedan, near Afghan border.
Former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Mubeen Shah in his address over Skype from Malaysia told the audience that CPEC had the potential to break the status quo.
Calling upon India and Pakistan to agree on having entire Kashmir region – Kashmir valley, Ladakh, Jammu, Pakistan administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan as a single Free Economic Zone, Shah said while leading the Joint Chamber of Jammu Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir, he had raised this issue with both New Delhi and Islamabad but had found no takers.
Urging Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to take up this issue with India and Pakistan, Shah said both were not forthcoming on cross-LoC trade.
He said both the separatist leadership and mainstream politicians needed to pressurise New Delhi to ensure Jammu Kashmir becomes a part of CPEC.
“Trade can decide even Kashmir,” Shah said.
While Shah sounded optimistic about the impact of CPEC on Kashmir, Zubair Ahmad Dar, a researcher at University of California, Berkley said Kashmiris needed to be prepared for the environmental concerns the project would bring with it.
“Of the 15 power projects China is building in Pakistan, nine are coal powered and this pollution will reach Kashmir,” Dar said. “And while we should be conscious to what we import from CPEC, we should also be prepared to what we can export, and fruits and energy can be those exports.”
Dar said there was a prospect of a war in the South China Sea and Beijing was preparing for that with “economic colonisation of Pakistan”.
“China will definitely protect its economic interests militarily and once the Chinese military is in Pakistan, it like any other military would leave only after losing a war with another military,” he said.
Muhammad Ibrahim Wani, a researcher at the University of Kashmir, said CPEC would help Kashmir economy by getting the international market it requires.
Earlier, Director the Kashmir Institute, Fahad Shah laid down the importance of CPEC for Kashmir and entire region and outlining the different contours of the project highlighted its importance for engaging in the debate on the issue.
The other members of the Kashmir Institute, founded six months back, also comprise senior journalist and media analyst Gowhar Geelani, Syed Mujtaba Rizvi, Saba Nazki and Saba Mir.
Prominent civil society members including Dr. Altaf Hussain, Prof. Hameed Nayeem, Abdul Majeed Zargar, Dr. Javed Iqbal, Khurram Parvez, Peer G N Suhail, journalists Mufti Islah, Muzaffar Raina, Tariq Bhat, Peerzada Ashiq, Hakeem Irfan, Farooq Shah, students from various disciplines, a large number of China and Pakistan watchers, and people from different sections of the society attended the function held at Hotel Comrade Inn at Rajbagh.
The programme was compeered by Gowhar Geelani.