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Is China backing Pakistan’s position on PoK projects under its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan?

Wang Yiwei, Professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University said that while China was open to India’s involvement in the CPEC, Pakistani’s view was that since “all projects are being built in Pakistan” there was no need to do so.

PoK

China is appearing to back Pakistan’s position on controversial projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) ahead of the key May 14 Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

A top China’s academic said in Beijing on Thursday that while the country was open to India’s involvement in the CPEC, the Pakistani view was that since “all projects are being built in Pakistan” there was no need to do so.

“In Kashmir, the CPEC projects mainly go though the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir region. This is what the Pakistani people tell us,” said Wang Yiwei, Professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University, who has recently visited Pakistan. China refers to PoK as Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

 PoK

“We must pay a lot of attention to the concerns of India about the CPEC,” added Wang. “We are now inviting India to take part in it. We are ready to discuss and talk to India but maybe Pakistan is not willing to do it, as [they are saying] all projects are being built in Pakistan. So the China’s government is also confused. These are the problems,” Wang told journalists.

While he suggested China was “confused”, in fact China has appeared to buy the Pakistani argument, as it goes ahead with the $55 billion corridor. China hasn’t relented in the face of India’s strong opposition to parts of the CPEC that passes through PoK. China shares a border with PoK and not with Pakistan.

INDIA AND PAKISTAN SHOULD GET TOGETHER

“Of course we should persuade Pakistani people to talk to Indians,” Wang added. “Because of lack of mutual trust between Pakistan and India, it is also difficult for us, so I guess it is up to India and Pakistan, the two brothers, to make a joint consultation because the CPEC has become a regional arrangement. The initiative will bring benefit to a lot of countries so there should be no worry and suspicion. President Xi said the One Belt, One Road are two wings for the Asian economy to fly. China and India should deepen mutual understanding and carry forward more cooperation.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is among 28 world leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum on May 14 and 15 in Beijing. India hasn’t yet confirmed its attendance.

China is billing the CPEC as a key segment of the One Belt, One Road, which envisages a land economic belt to Central Asia and Europe and a Maritime Silk Road.

CPEC AS A STRATEGIC PLAN

Wang admitted that the CPEC might not be economically viable but there was a strong strategic rationale. “Some projects like the CPEC are strategic and has long-term strategic considerations, such as addressing the energy shortage and industrial shortage, and building ports. It is hard for such infrastructure projects to make money. When I visited Pakistan they asked me whether the projects will bring them a lot of debt. We also take into consideration their ability to pay off loans.”

Wang said there were “lots of rumours” about the CPEC, and that some reports were off the mark, including of plans to build a bullet train from China to Pakistan – unfeasible at high altitudes, he pointed out – or of turning the Gwadar port into a military facility, which many experts suggest may be a long term plan. China last year opened its first overseas naval facility in Djibouti near the Gulf of Aden.

He also acknowledged there were problems with the CPEC plan and its implementation, including political considerations in Pakistan that forced changes in alignment and led to some objections that Punjab province was being excessively favoured.

“To be frank, the government is not well governed and there is corruption problem as well,” he says”Prime Minister Sharif says they want to change the alignment and design, since we have the plans we have to ensure design is well carried out, otherwise projects would be negatively impacted. It will not bring benefits to China otherwise. We have reminded the Pakistani side through various channels. The cost has increased because of change in alignment, and we cannot change the main line.”

Wang also defended China’s close cooperation with the Pakistani military in pushing the CPEC. “Without a strong military it is hard to resist terrorist forces,” he said, and praised it for raising a special security division of more than ten thousand troops to protect Chinese personnel. “China will not simply support the military. Pakistan is a civilian government. The urge for Pakistani government is improve its capacity to govern but generally speaking it is a problem between friends”

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