Free Press Journal

China turning Pak into its ‘colony’

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AS for the Sharif government, it has kept the detailed plans under wraps for fear that questions would be asked by the media and the people which it would be hard put to answer in the limited elbow room it enjoys, hemmed in as it is by the army on one side and the Chinese government on the other.

For India, the thought of China at its doorstep is far from comforting. There is the added shock that whatever little chance there was of wresting from Pakistan the control of Pak-occupied Indian territory in Kashmir at some stage would evaporate with the Chinese having a stake in the region. Indeed, India can only pin its hopes on the opposition of Balochis and of people in Gilgit-Baltistan turning acute. But the China-Pak reprisals would be brutal and ferocious.

There is no mistaking the fact that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor with One Belt One Road as its flagship, may virtually convert Pakistan into an economic colony of China. But so blinded is Nawaz Sharif led Pakistan by the short-term benefits that would accrue to Pakistan from a tight strategic embrace of its ally that it is oblivious to the compromises he is making on Pakistan’s sovereignty.


The grandiose plan would provide China connectivity from Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan. The range and scope of the plan is breathtaking, showing a deep penetration into Pakistan’s economic life. This could have several implications for India too.

The fallout for India could be that it would bring China menacingly close to our borders in the east and west. It would be a virtual ring-fence of India.

According to the perspective plan leaked by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, much to the Sharif government’s chagrin, thousands of acres of Pakistani agricultural land will be leased to Chinese enterprises for projects ranging from seed germination to irrigation technology. A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.

As per the CPEC, those entering agriculture must make the most of ‘free capital and loans’ from the Chinese ministries as well as China Development Bank. The report further states that China, according to the plan, has shown great interest in textiles too. Additionally, the plan also talks about a long belt of coastal enjoyment and many recreational activities and places like cruise homeports, yacht wharfs, theatres, golf courses, spas, hot spring hotels, etc. A national fibre optic backbone will be used not only for internet traffic but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in popularising China’s culture. Indeed, it would be a multi-pronged Chinese hegemony from economy to culture.

Itching to break away from US influence, Pakistan is looking upon the Chinese embrace as a godsend but it would realize later that it has mortgaged its sovereignty to the Chinese. However, then it may be too late. The army, which has power but no responsibility in Pakistan’s scheme of things has been pushing for the CPEC but if and when something goes wrong, it would conveniently pin all blame on the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif.

As for the Sharif government, it has kept the detailed plans under wraps for fear that questions would be asked by the media and the people which it would be hard put to answer in the limited elbow room it enjoys, hemmed in as it is by the army on one side and the Chinese government on the other.

For India, the thought of China at its doorstep is far from comforting. There is the added shock that whatever little chance there was of wresting from Pakistan the control of Pak-occupied Indian territory in Kashmir at some stage would evaporate with the Chinese having a stake in the region. Indeed, India can only pin its hopes on the opposition of Balochis and of people in Gilgit-Baltistan turning acute. But the China-Pak reprisals would be brutal and ferocious.

It remains to be seen whether India’s access to the seas would be hampered through that route. If India works in tandem with the US, Japan and Australia the freedom of navigation can be hoped for, but US President Donald Trump is on his own ‘trip’ and there is no knowing whether he would be willing to take on the China-Pak axis.

As it is, it was disconcerting that the US chose to be represented at the Beijing summit that deliberated on the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of China which would develop as a veritable stepping stone to Chinese hegemony in the region. A mature US president would have exercised utmost caution.

The CPEC plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. The leaked Dawn report concluded, “In the areas of interest contained in the plan, it appears access to the full supply chain of the agrarian economy is a top priority for the Chinese.”

After that, the capacity of the textile spinning sector to serve the raw material needs of Xinjiang, and the garment and value added sector to absorb Chinese technology is another priority. One shudders to think what impact these measures would have on Pakistan and the negative fallout it would inevitably have on India.

India cannot but be wary of Chinese designs but there is precious little that this country can do without the backing of the US, Russia, Japan and Australia. Of these countries, Japan could be relied upon to some extent especially until Abe is at the helm there but understandably, self-interest drives all nations and it would be crucial how the Japanese see their future in the current context.

The Russians stood by India through thick and thin but now they seem to see merit in tilting towards China and Pakistan. It would indeed be a major challenge for India to wean them away through deals that may be irresistible.

But there is a downside to the hunky dory picture that Pakistan is painting for its people. Apart from a real fear of Chinese colonisation, the security situation in Balochistan, where Gwadar is located, is worsening, with “Islamic State” (IS) claiming two large-scale attacks in the past few weeks. Recently, the group attacked a Sufi shrine in the Lasbela district of the volatile Balochistan province, killing at least 50 worshippers. Insurgency in Balochistan is also gaining momentum with Gilgit-Baltistan resenting the colonization by the Chinese. All in all, it truly is a scenario that is pregnant with grim forebodings.

 

The author is a political commentator and columnist.

He has authored four books