CPEC: The Corridor Of Conflict

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Panel Left to Right - Jennifer Staats, Director, USIP China Program, Hussain Nadim, Government of Pakistan, Arif Rafiq, Middle East Institute, Hai Zhao, Tsinghua University, China, Sarah Watson, CSIS Image Source

As if the ongoing tension in the Indo-Pak relations was not enough, yet another dimension has been added to it in the form of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The corridor is being jointly built by China and Pakistan with a total cost of $50 billion and would cross through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)which would, indeed, be frowned upon by India.
The latest report released by UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has suggested that this corridor could escalate tension in the already volatile Indian sub-continent. The ceasefire violation across the line of control are increasing and an atmosphere of mistrust is already building up between the region’s two nuclear powers.

The UN report, however, also warns Pakistan of the negative impact of the corridor on its own internal situation as it could lead to fuelling of nationalist movement of Baluchistan.
The report underlines the escalation of tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and since this corridor would be passing through the PoK, it could lead to geopolitical tension and further destabilize the region. The corridor is part of the China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which it is building on its borders with India to facilitate access to the border areas in the time of war.

The UN reports also mentions the fact that the corridor may not be as economic viable as suggested by China. It would not be much beneficial to the people living in Kabul and Kandahar as it would pass through militarily sensitive areas in eastern Afghanistan where Taliban has a sway. To maintain and secure this corridor would be a nightmare. India has already protested the construction of the corridor and conveyed its sentiment to China and boycotted the last week’s BRI summit in Beijing.

The UN report though acknowledges the benefits of trade due to corridor as it would lead to trade and commerce among China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian states but also cautions that this would lead to displacement of local communities and their marginalization as new economic centre may lead to people of Balochistan becoming a minority in their own province.

Apart from this the Hazara community of Pakistan could also face the adverse circumstances due to the corridor. It is feared that the interests of the big Chinese companies would be served and the benefits to Pakistan would be limited to Punjabis.

UN report also mentions the damage it could cost to environment and destruction of flora and fauna. Besides, it could also lead to the destruction of cultivable land in the mountains of western Pakistan leading to hardships to the farmers in the area.

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