Back in 2013, China projected China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worldwide as purely an infrastructure initiative while India objected to Gwadar’s probable misuse for military purposes. Recent reports confirm how prescient India’s apprehensions were.
Both China and Pakistan are confirmed to be colluding to militarize CPEC that has been continuing for almost one year under the veneer of trade; so typical of Chinese secrecy. It has come to public knowledge only now.
Trump declared in January 2018 to suspend billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan to elicit cooperation from Pakistan military. China immediately stepped into the void and pushed a secret proposal to build Chinese military jets, weaponry and other hardware in Pakistan and deepen China-Pakistan cooperation in space for future militarization of space.
China laid out Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)in 2013 to develop infrastructure across 70 countries by spending up to $1 trillion. Countries across the region including India expressed doubt about its true intent.
Now that China’s militarization of South Asia is in full swing in Pakistan under the BRI banner, India’s stand which others had been disbelieving so long stands vindicated. Pakistan project has helped China tie up BRI expansion to military ambitions. Clothed in noble intentions, BRI is actually a tool to prop up China’s military might by using projects in Pakistan to secure both favour and leverage among its clients.
Related Story: Is the CPEC project a “military turn” of the BRI?
Since the inception of BRI, China dangled the investment of $62 billion in projects of flagship programme CPEC to endear the financially starved Pakistan. The chill in US-Pakistan relations belched Pakistan further towards China to the extent that its sovereignty is now seriously compromised. Jokes abound on Pakistan reducing itself to 24th province of China – namely South Xinxiang province! CPEC is considered by many as a form of neo-colonialism.
China – Pakistani military cooperation is an open secret now. China’s bigger projects in Pakistan all along had clear strategic implications. Gwadar seaport ensured China an alternative and quicker route to the Arabian Sea. If increasing confrontation leads to American blockade of Strait of Malacca, China purports to use Gwadar port as an alternative. A military port in the neighbourhood rattles India.
Pakistan has got access to the military system of China’s Beidou Satellite navigation system – the only foreign country to get such access so far. This offers precise guidance to Pakistani missiles, ships and aircraft with severe strategic implications for India. This could be the blueprint for Beidou’s expansion to other BRI nations to pre-empt their reliance on US military GPS network.
China has found in Pakistan a willing ally, shared border, a trading partner, a large market for arms sales, large natural resources, a hedge against India, and a showcase for Chinese security and surveillance technologies.
BRI was supposed to be concrete construction of road and bridges visible to all but now the technologies of future security systems loom large as the biggest security threat to BRI. Pakistan Air Force is setting up a special economic zone with Chinese assistance to co-produce a new generation of fighter jets.
This expands current China-Pakistan assembly of JK-17 fighter jets as an alternative to US F-16. Navigation systems, radar systems and onboard weapons for the first time would be built jointly at factories in Pakistan.
China uses Pakistan as the showcase to lure countries away from US equipment towards Chinese arms. The US is not willing to sell advanced weaponry like ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia and China is too keen to sell systems to cash-rich countries of the Muslim world through Pakistan. Pakistan has very important secret military cooperation in space with China for years.
The plan for establishment of a network of satellite stations to establish the Beidou Navigation Systems as an alternative to GPS network even predates CPEC. Satellite launches ominously strengthen China’s military space capabilities despite public stance against militarization of space including Beidou and new weaponry. India initially excluded but later invited Chinese giant Huawei for 5G trials.
This involves a huge security implication for India. The Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC) have already apprised NSA of the danger.
There is no use extending undue favours to China at the expense of India’s security when China cares a hoot for India’s interests.