The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the star project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a mega endeavour consisting of numerous infrastructure and economic projects throughout Pakistan.
The $62 billion project’s main highlights include a 3,000 kilometre network of railways, oil and gas pipelines from Pakistan to China, and new renewable energy projects.
Ostensibly, as soon as CPEC was announced, a shift in regional alliances was also set in motion. India has and continues to heavily oppose the BRI and CPEC even when China has on numerous occasions invited them to participate in the endeavour. On the surface, the Indian’s claim to oppose the project due to it passing through the disputed territories of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
In reality, however, their vehement distaste for CPEC is due to two primary reasons firstly, if successful, Pakistan, India’s historic rival, will become a stable and stronger economic and regional player, and secondly the project will cement China’s position as the regional hegemon and might also catapult them to world power status. China’s ultimate goal is to use and advance Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port for energy security and military purposes.
BRI and CPEC thus signal an economic and strategic shift towards China and Pakistan. This not only infuriates India but also America, which views CPEC and BRI as a “challenge to its hegemony and superpower status”.
In recent times, especially after Trump took office, America has shifted from Pakistan to India as its key ally in the region and is using India to negate Chinese influence. In fact, Trump suspended $2 billion worth of military aid to Pakistan in 2018, and has been simultaneously propping up India with military and economic partnerships.
Where India now finds itself in the warm (albeit unreliable) embrace of the Americans, Pakistan finds itself with its historically loyal partner, China.
One major way America is trying to create discord is by stirring the pot in Balochistan, the heart of the CPEC project. How? In July 2016, America added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (TTP-JA) to its terror list. This was worrisome for both Pakistan and China because historically whenever America has targeted terror groups along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, there has been an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
This trend repeated itself due to the stated American factor but also because many terrorists had escaped to Balochistan due to the military operation by Pakistan army in neighbouring FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas).
After declaring TTP-JA on America’s terror list in July, the group’s attacks proliferated in Balochistan in August and September 2016 alone, the group claimed the lives of 135 people mostly in Quetta. Analyst Ian Price states that whether this move by America to sabotage CPEC was deliberate or not remains a mystery but this outcome was a predictable one.
I am of the opinion that America could not have been oblivious of these damning results to Pakistan and CPEC and hence this was indeed deliberate. I am not alone in this kind of reasoning – a plethora of Pakistani and Chinese politicians, analysts, and army personnel realise what America and India are endeavouring to do.
For example, a senior Pakistani politician, Palwasha Khan, stated that the Indian-American nexus is striving to incapacitate CPEC and BRI.
Albeit in safer hands today, Balochistan was in peril a few years earlier. This is primarily due to India’s active funding and propagation of Balochistan based terrorist groups, such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), to destabilise Pakistan and CPEC.
India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Israel’s MOSSAD, and America’s CIA have been jointly collaborating in their Balochistan project. Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is aware of this and has foiled several of their terror plans. Retired ISI official Brigadier Aslam Ghuman stated that “Yes, the CIA in connivance with RAW and Blackwater is operating in Balochistan and other parts of the country”.
In 2016, RAW-backed Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) chief, Nazar Baloch, stated that he would welcome financial and other assistance from India and pledged further attacks on the CPEC. RAW has conducted numerous bombings and murders of Chinese engineers in Balochistan using its proxies.
These attacks on Chinese workers (who are working on CPEC) are deliberately orchestrated to delay and scare China from Pakistan. For example, in November 2018, the Chinese consulate in Karachi was attacked by BLA.
After an investigation, Additional Inspector General of Police, Dr. Amir Shaikh informed the public that the attack was planned in Afghanistan by BLA mastermind, Aslam, and was carried out with the assistance of RAW.
India’s nationalistic and anti-Pakistan Prime Minister, Modi, has publicly stated that Balochis thanked him for raising the concern of humanitarian violations by Pakistan. Islamabad saw this as clear evidence of Indian meddling in Balochistan.
Concurrently, America, playing its part to support India, also raised similar concerns about human rights violations in Balochistan.
America was fast to criticise Pakistan but was blind to the abhorrent support its own agencies and India were providing to the Baloch terrorists that have killed hundreds of people in the country.
America was also conveniently blind to how India inaugurated the office of Free Balochistan, an Indian backed movement, in New Delhi in 2018.
Academic, Usman Shahid asserts that “Given the U.S. track record of meddling in the internal affairs of many countries under the guise of human rights, Islamabad assumes that the U.S. agenda in Balochistan is far greater than just human rights violations.”
Post 9/11, India improved relations with Afghanistan, which borders Balochistan, and became its close ally to the dismay of Pakistan.
The primary reason for this was to sandwich Pakistan between a hostile India and a pro-India Afghanistan. Furthermore, Afghanistan is used by India-backed Baloch separatists for training purposes. American author, Webster Tarpley, confirms the preceding by stating RAW is “recruiting crazies from there (Afghanistan) to bring them down and help them to engage in terrorism inside Pakistan.”
In March 2016, Pakistani security agencies disclosed the arrest of RAW spy, Khulbashan Yadav. Yadav is on record (video confession) for stating that he is a RAW agent. He mentioned that he was stationed in Chahbahar, the Iranian Port City under the fictitious name “Mubarak Patel”.
Regarding Balochi terrorist groups, the caught spy said, “The aim of these meetings was always to see that the aims and the targets of RAW to conduct the various terrorist activities within Balochistan are conveyed properly to the insurgents and any kinds of requirements of them are conveyed back to the RAW officials.”
Regarding CPEC, he stated “CPEC region between Gwadar and China had to be distorted and disrupted and some destabilised so that the aim was to just basically raise the level of insurgency within Balochistan and the Karachi region.”
America is complicit in all these Indian crimes and is empowering India to continue its efforts in Pakistan. It is impossible for America to be incognizant of the terrorist proxy efforts conducted by India – it is impossible because the CIA is itself involved in these operations but allows India space to do the brunt of the dirty work.
The policy to isolate Pakistan and undermine CPEC has failed, however, as the Pakistan army’s brilliant efforts in FATA and Balochistan have stabilised the security situation.
Pakistan has defeated its primary insurgent group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, in Operation Zarb-E-Azb and its armed forces have been extolled internationally as one of the best conventional and counter-terrorist forces.
Terrorism has reduced to record lows, investment and tourism is increasing but most importantly, CPEC and BRI are on track. Several CPEC projects have been successfully completed while work on various others is ongoing.