It has been widely reported that Pakistan owes $40 billion to China to repay debt and dividends on the latter’s investments made under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), raising concerns about a “debt trap,” but the actual figure is only $6.017 billion.
The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan confirmed recently that China provided concessional loans of $5.874 billion for major Pakistani transportation projects. The Pakistani government will repay only $6.017 billion, including interest, to China.
Pakistan-based newspaper The Express Tribune reported in December that Pakistan’s external debt and liabilities stood at $96.7 billion as of the end of September 2018, citing figures from the State Bank of Pakistan. It seems debt from China made up only a small part of Pakistan’s total burden.
However, many Indian media outlets, which have smeared the CPEC as a “debt trap,” kept silent about the news.
Some articles claimed that the CPEC project would create an unbearable debt burden for Pakistan. If the country couldn’t repay those loans, the Pakistani government may have to make some economic or political concessions to Beijing, falling into a “debt trap.”
Some Indian media outlets like making comment about the CPEC. They have speculated whether China may acquire a military base in Pakistan if Islamabad gets caught in a debt trap. Some of the media has spread fake news, suggesting the Pakistani Senate approved a motion to declare Mandarin as one of the official languages of Pakistan, when there was growing collaboration between the two countries under the CPEC. Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, misrepresented China’s intentions and image by falsely claiming that it was aiming to shackle its partners with debt, and unfairly described this as “China’s creditor imperialism.”
China-Pakistan relations should not be affected by an imaginary debt trap, but Indian media outlets seem unwilling to clear up the misunderstandings about the CPEC. Most Indian media outlets turned a blind eye to the figures released by the Chinese Embassy. They always show great enthusiasm for negative news relating to the CPEC, but downplay positive information about the project.
The dispute over Kashmir between Pakistan and India has made some Indian people vigilant about the CPEC. But does this mean that bad news for the CPEC is good news for India? Probably not.
Economic cooperation is the only purpose of the CPEC, which helps create a strong demand for economic integration in the region. At the very least, economic integration will contribute not just to the economy in Pakistan, but also to India’s exports.
Indian media outlets need to take an objective view of the CPEC. Only if those media outlets provide comprehensive information can Indian people study the pros and cons of the CPEC.
We believe most Indian people will make the right choice.