Dr Shabir Choudhry
Gilgit Baltistan was disputed before the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was initiated. However, I am pleased that now the Trump administration has also realised this fact. It will be pertinent to assert that according to the UN Resolutions, the entire former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed since late 1940s.
Different countries change their stand on this matter in accordance with their interests. The US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “The One Belt, One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate.”
Both the Defence Secretary James Matis and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford appeared before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee to brief US lawmakers on the current situation in the Pak-Afghan region. What Secretary Matis said is a clear signal that America has decided to oppose the CPEC; and in this regard Washington will find more than one country willing to provide helping hand. Trump Administration strongly feels that in a globalised world, where instability, international terrorism, and threat of nuclear use is serious matter no one country should be in a position to dictate world economic agenda. It is believed that if the CPEC becomes functional as planned by Beijing and Islamabad, then it will seriously threaten interests of many countries, especially America, Iran, UAE and India. This will enormously increase power and influence of Beijing, as that will enable China to control and influence Gilgit Baltistan, Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
In other words, the CPEC has potential to aggravate Washington’s relationship with Islamabad and Beijing because of the conflicting interests and shifting alliances. This could also lead to confrontation in the region, possibly involving other countries in the fray. The CPEC, in view of some commentators, instead of being a source prosperity and economic stability could well instigate a disaster and calamity unseen in contemporary history of the region. It is sad to note that the Pakistani elite, in line with their past practice, have been very economical with truth. They continue to hide facts from the people. Anyone who dare to present a counter narrative is perceived as anti – state and agent of foreign powers.
It is possible that some of those spearheading the CPEC projects have little or no knowledge on the subject; and they do not fully comprehend implications of this mega project which has hidden objectives as well. Interestingly those people and the elite connected with the CPEC projects have no business interests in Pakistan, and any negative impact on the economy of Pakistan will not directly hurt them. Furthermore, hitherto relationship on the CPEC indicate that most of the benefits are going towards China; and Pakistan will get very little out of it. There is hardly any transfer of skills from the Chinese to the Pakistani professionals. Additionally, question arises, if there is any valuable transfer of technology, which will enrich knowledge and understanding of the Pakistani professionals.
A Pakistani columnist, Nusrat Mirza in his article writes that China is also seriously concerned about security of the CPEC. In order to protect its huge investment and strategic interests China has taken certain pre-emptive military steps.
Chinese apprehension is that passage of Wakhan could also be used to target the CPEC projects with intention of stopping the progress or creating serious obstacles. It is believed that America has installed very sensitive instruments to monitor various activities. To counter this, China has also stationed thousands of soldiers and has built Helipad and military airport. 2
I want people of Pakistan to enjoy their liberty and fundamental human rights. I want them to have economic stability and prosperity, as that will help them to control extremism, intolerance and terrorism. However, they should not get economic stability and prosperity at the cost of our freedom, our resources and our future. No matter what critics say, interests of citizens of our people is paramount to me.
I oppose the CPEC because it will be counterproductive to long term Pakistani interests and its sovereignty. It is against the interests of the region; and above all, it is against the interests of citizens of Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir.
As a loyal son of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, I have every right to write and oppose this mega project which, like East India Company of the past centuries, will usurp our rights and loot and plunder our resources. I have to see what is there for our people; and how it will affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir dispute and Gilgit Baltistan?
I strongly feel that because of the CPEC, and clear violation of the State Subject Laws, there will be very serious demographic changes, as more Pakistanis and Chinese will settle here. This and presence of more army and secret agencies will consequently increase in human rights abuses and intimidation and harassment of the local people. Furthermore, this will strengthen role of non – local people who will control local economy and politics. Ultimately this will lead to more loot and plunder of our resources.
The CPEC will result in change of status of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute; and will enhance power and influence of China. Furthermore, the CPEC will seriously disturb the eco system of the region with enormous environment problems.
In view of the above, it is imperative that loyal sons of the soil should speak against negative impacts of the CPEC, as it is not designed to empower people or promote economic stability and prosperity in Pakistan and areas of Jammu and Kashmir State under Pakistan.