Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] The China-Pakistan love affair in troubled waters


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC, Belt & Road initiative

Mains level: New challenges for CPEC and Sino-Pak bilateral relations


Strain in Sino-Pak relationship

  1. Recently, the Chinese consulate in Karachi came under attack with three gunmen trying to enter it and killing four people in the process
  2. The Balochistan Liberation Army took responsibility for the attack
  3. This attack is part of a series of assaults on Chinese projects and personnel in the restive province of Balochistan over the years as China’s footprint has grown in the region

Turmoil in Balochistan

  1. Balochistan sits at the very heart of the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s flagship investment project in Pakistan
  2. Despite being rich in minerals, gas and coal, Balochistan is Pakistan’s most impoverished region, resulting in perpetual political turmoil
  3. Baloch nationalists have gained traction by accusing Islamabad of pursuing exploitative policies and never giving the region its rightful share
  4. The ongoing tussle between security forces and Baloch nationalists has made the region’s security precarious, diminishing the region’s economic prospects

Importance of CPEC for Pak as well as China

  1. China has come up with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as part of which it plans to link its western Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan
  2. With a network of highways, railways and pipelines in conjunction with energy, industrial and other infrastructure development projects, the CPEC aims to enhance connectivity across Pakistan and as well as the country’s overall economic growth prospects
  3. CPEC is being talked about as a potential game changer as it could revive the economic profile of a region that has traditionally been an economic backwater
  4. The CPEC is as much about China’s growing strategic bond with Pakistan as it is about Beijing’s efforts to stem the growing tide of insurgency and radicalism from flowing into its own territory
  5. It is hoping that by generating economic growth and opportunities in Pakistan, it will be able to manage its troubled provinces

Challenges for CPEC increasing

  1. There is growing domestic political opposition in Pakistan—not only from Baloch nationalists but also due to widening differences between provinces and the central government—over the allocation of investments
  2. This has been exacerbated by Pakistan’s economic crisis, which has seen Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves rapidly depleting and the country facing a mounting balance-of-payments crisis, requiring about $12 billion to meet its liabilities
  3. CPEC has been blamed for part of this problem, with imports of heavy machinery and other equipment resulting in Pakistan’s massive trade deficit

Global challenges for China & Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is facing a difficult global environment on the whole
  2. Its relationship with the US has nosedived under the Donald Trump administration which has warned the International Monetary Fund against lending money to Pakistan, arguing that a bailout package could not be used to settle Chinese debts
  3. China is also coming under growing global criticism for its BRI projects with nations as diverse as Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Maldives all voicing complaints about the terms of the loans from China
  4. China’s debt trap diplomacy is facing a global pushback

Way forward

  1. Though Chinese interests have been repeatedly targeted over the years, Beijing so far has continued to repose its faith in the Pakistani government’s ability to manage the security situation so as to guarantee Chinese investment
  2. Recent attacks in Balochistan merely emphasize that challenges for CPEC and for the China-Pakistan economic relationship are only going to mount in the future
  3. Some kind of a reset in Sino-Pak engagement is inevitable
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