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Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh: UN to provide aid for up to 7, 00,000 refugees

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The United Nations has drawn up a contingency plan to feed up to 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar after some 480,000 fled to Bangladesh over the past month and arrivals continue.

The hunger situation in camps in Bangladesh has improved as food aid from WFP and other agencies is now reaching the refugees. The plan also covers some 300,000 Rohingya who were already sheltering in southeast Bangladesh before the latest influx began, meaning it could cater for a million people in total. “No one would be left out from any humanitarian assistance. The WFP would need about $80 million for the massive aid.

Earlier, the UN made an emergency appeal for $78 million on 9 September, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said much more would be needed as the exodus grows.

Impoverished Bangladesh, which earned praise for opening up its border, has eased restrictions on aid groups working in refugee camps and sought $250 million from the World Bank to fund emergency relief.

The Rohingyas were placed in internment camps and today there are still more than 120,000 still housed there. For years the Rohingyas have faced discrimination and persecution, today they are still facing this problem and have started to flee to other countries for safe haven. In 2015 “more than 40 Rohingya were massacred in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan by local men, the U.N. confirmed. Among the findings were 10 severed heads in a water tank, including those of children” The Rohingya people have been facing persecution for their religion and as of today still have no rights or citizenship in their homeland.

A United Nations official last week said it would need $200 million over the next six months to handle the Rohingya crisis. Rohingya have been fleeing Rakhine state in north east Myanmar for decades. The new influx began on 25 August when deadly attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar police posts prompted a huge crackdown by the military.

Bangladesh is already host to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled previous outbreaks of violence in Rakhine. Existing refugee camps are full and the new arrivals are sleeping rough in whatever space they can find, reports say. 

The 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis refers to the mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Bangladesh in 2015, collectively dubbed “boat people” by international media. Nearly all who fled traveled to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand by rickety boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 25,000 people have been taken to boats from January to March in 2015 by human traffickers. There are claims that, while on their journey, around 100 people died in Indonesia, 200 in Malaysia, and 10 in Thailand, after the traffickers abandoned them at sea. 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited the overflowing camps last week and said Bangladesh needs “massive international assistance” to feed and shelter the Rohingya. Grandi said there had been an “incredible outpouring of local generosity” but that now needed to be “beefed up by massive international assistance, financial and material”.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants. The violence began on 25 August when the Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, killing 12 security personnel. Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar since then say the military responded with a brutal campaign, burning villages and attacking civilians in a bid to drive them out. Zeid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the current operation in Rakhine was “clearly disproportionate”.

A senior official from the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said they were now prepared to provide massive food and other emergency aid if the influx continues in coming weeks. “All the UN agencies together have now set a plan for a new influx of 700,000. We can cover if the new influx reaches 700, 000,” said the WFP’s deputy chief in Bangladesh, Dipayan Bhattacharyya.

The Muslim Rohingya has been fleeing from Myanmar (Burma) by the thousands. The Rohingya are a minority ethnic group located in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and are considered to be a variation of the Sunni religion. Since the Rohingya are considered to be illegal Bengali immigrants and were denied recognition as a religion by the government of Myanmar, the dominant group, the Rakhine, rejects the label “Rohingya” and have started to persecute the Rohingya. 

The people in Myanmar are also facing wide spread poverty, with more than 78 percent of the families living below the poverty line. With most of the families living below the poverty line, tensions between the Rohingya and the other religious groups have exploded into conflict. The violence and turmoil began in 2012, the first incident was when a group of Rohingya men were accused of raping and killing a Buddhist woman The Buddhist nationalists retaliated by killing and burning the Rohingya homes. People from all over the world started calling this crisis and bloodshed “campaign of ethnic cleansing.”

More than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted there late last month.  The UN human rights chief says the security operation targeting Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Zeid Raad Al Hussein urged Myanmar to end the “cruel military operation” in Rakhine state. The military says it is responding to attacks by Rohingya ‘militants’ and denies it is targeting civilians. He noted that the situation could not be fully assessed because Myanmar had refused access to human rights investigators, but said the UN had received “multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians”.

The 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship despite the people living there for generations. The Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar because of the restrictions and policies placed by the government. The restrictions include: “marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement” and they are facing discrimination because of their ethnic heritage.

The Bangladeshi authorities have started to register the new arrivals. Previously only those in two official camps were being documented, but government teams are now collecting fingerprints and details from all newcomers, including those in makeshift shelters. BBC analysts say that, until now, the government has refused to register those outside camps for fear of legitimizing them. But the current move may help the government as it engages in a diplomatic battle about the Rohingyas’ future.

The emergence of Rohingya militant group was due to oppressive tactics of Burmese military and police. The defending was implicated  being behind the 25 August attacks,  declared a one-month unilateral ceasefire to allow aid agencies in, but the Myanmar government rejected it, saying it would not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Myanmar military and regime say that it is the militants who are burning Rohingya villages and targeting civilians, but a BBC correspondent on an official visit to Rakhine came across a Muslim village apparently burned by Rakhine Buddhists led by monks, contradicting the official narrative.

Obviously, the Rohingya are extremely unpopular among Buddhists inside Myanmar. On last Sunday, police fired rubber bullets to break up a mob attacking the home of a Muslim meat seller in Magway region in central Myanmar. One protester was quoted by AFP news agency saying it was a response to events in Rakhine. Myanmar is influenced heavily  by Hindutva politics in India where Muslims are targeted by the ruling regime.

In October 2015, researchers from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London released a report drawing on leaked government documents that reveals an increasing “ghettoisation, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement” on Rohingya peoples. The researchers suggest that the Myanmar government are in the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingya and have called upon the international community to redress the situation as such.

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan. The Rohingya people are considered “stateless entities”, as the Myanmar government has been refusing to recognize them as one of the ethnic groups of the country. For this reason, the Rohingya people lack legal protection from the Government of Myanmar, are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, and face strong hostility in the country—often described as one of the most persecuted people on earth. To escape the dire situation in Myanmar, the Rohingya try to illegally enter Southeast Asian states, begging for humanitarian support from potential host countries. 

On 1 May 2015, about 32 shallow graves were discovered on a remote and rugged mountain in Thailand, at a so-called “waiting area” for the illegal migrants before they were sneaked through the border into Malaysia. A Bangladeshi migrant was found alive in the grave and was later treated at a local hospital as told to Thai news agencies. On 22 May 2015, however, the Myanmar navy rescued 208 migrants at sea, and upon inspection, confirmed themselves as having come from Bangladesh.[20] Protests by nationalists erupted in the capital, calling for the international community to stop blaming Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis. 

On 24 May 2015, Malaysian police discovered 139 suspected graves in a series of abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma were believed to have been held.

The violence erupted in late August when the army retaliated against co-ordinated attacks by Rohingya militants. Since then just under half of Rakhine’s Rohingya population has poured into Bangladesh, where they now languish in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

A further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also been displaced — apparent targets of the 25 August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salavation Army (ARSA) militant group.

While desperate scenes of weary and hungry Rohingya civilians streaming into Bangladesh have dominated global headlines, there is little sympathy for the Muslim group among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

Many reject the existence of a Rohingya ethnicity and insist they are ‘Bengalis’ — illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. On Monday several hundred people gathered in downtown Yangon to rail against the UN, international NGOs and foreign media, as a siege mentality grows inside Myanmar. “I want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for the ethnic people of Myanmar and to remove the pressure from the international community by giving the speech tomorrow,” demonstrator Khin Khin Myint said.

Tensions over the status of the Rohingya have been brewing for years in Myanmar, with bouts of anti-Muslim violence erupting around the country as Buddhist hardliners fan fears of an Islamic takeover.

The knotty a military still looms large in the fragile democracy. Although the army stepped down from junta rule in 2011, it kept control of security policy and key levers of government. In fact, the  military rules Myanmar on behalf of the elected Aung San Suu Kyi.  Any overt break from the army’s policy in Rakhine could enrage the generals and derail Suu Kyi’s efforts to prevent a rollback on recent democratic gains.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has been decried overseas for failing to condemn the generals, with whom she is in a delicate power-sharing arrangement.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and defender of genocides of Muslims in Myanmar, is facing mounting criticism for failing to protect the Rohingya, but the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama cannot tolerate crimes against the humanity in Myanmar and added his voice, urging her “to reach out to all sections of society to try to restore friendly relations”.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is poised to break her near-silence on communal violence scorching through Rakhine state, in a televised speech on Rohingya refugee crisis that has shocked the world and prompted the UN to accuse the country’s army of ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi’s refusal so far to defend the Rohingya over nearly a month of violence has baffled and enraged an international community that once feted her as the champion of Myanmar’s democracy struggle. But inside Myanmar, supporters say the 72-year-old lacks authority to reign in the army, which stands accused of waging a campaign of murder and arson that has driven more than 410,000 Rohingya from their homes.

With global pressure cranked high, Suu Kyi skipped the UN General Assembly in New York to manage the crisis at home and deliver her televised address — the biggest yet of her time in office. “She is going to tell the world the real truth,” her spokesman Zaw Htay told reporters ahead of the speech.   Analysts say she faces the treacherous task of walking the line between global outrage and Islamophobic anti-Rohingya views at home, where there is broad support for the army’s campaign. 

As such, there is almost no possibility, given the political climate in Myanmar, for balancing the expectations of most of the country and the expectations of the international community.

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South Asia

How the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal affects India

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Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Sandeep Sachdeva*

While India was guarded in it’s response to the withdrawal of US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it surely realizes the implications of the US withdrawal. Iran is India’s third largest source of crude oil (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia) . Between April 2017 and January 2018, New Delhi imported well over 18 million tonnes of crude oil.

New Delhi has also invested in the development of the Chabahar Port Project, which will provide India, access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This project is extremely important for India, since it will help in bypassing Pakistan, which has continuously kept India out of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). During Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Iran visit in May 2016, India had signed an agreement, committing 500 Million USD for the development of Chabahar. During Modi’s visit,  a trilateral transport and transit partnership was also signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran.

In February 2018, during Iranian President Rouhani’s visit  to India, a lease agreement was signed between India and Iran. The lease agreement gave operational control of Phase 1 of Chabahar Port (Shahid Beheshti port) to India. The Modi, Hassan Rouhani Joint statement mentioned the need for making Chabahar part of INSTC project and PM Modi further emphasised that “We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link, so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised.”

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that to enhance connectivity with Afghanistan, India has also set up an India Afghan Air Corridor, two flights are currently operational; one connecting Mumbai with Kabul, and another which connects Delhi with Kabul.

Indian hopes

For the time being, New Delhi has rested its hopes on the fact, that European countries are trying to keep the deal intact, and US will also not impose sanctions on allies, including India, for engaging with Iran. Defence Secretary James Mattis in a Congressional hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had categorically stated,  that the US should be careful with regard to imposing sanctions against allies, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Mattis said, that allies like India should be provided a national security waiver, against imposition of sanctions for the purchase of S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.

A number of US Congressmen and Senators too have echoed Mattis’ views saying that India is valuable ally and should be exempted from sanctions

What India needs to be cautious about

While India does have time to react to the sanctions re-imposed, and the fact that European countries are keen to keep the deal alive are important. Recent statements by the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton saying that Europe will not be immune from sanctions, and would ultimately fall in line needs to be closely watched.

Said Bolton in an interview with ABC’sThis Week:“Europeans are going to face the effective US sanctions — already are, really — because much of what they would like to sell to Iran involves US technology, for which the licenses will not be available.”

Bolton also stated, that these countries will ultimately realise that it is in their interest to go along with the US.

Earlier US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell advised Germany to re-consider business ties with Iran:‘German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately”.

New Delhi needs to strike a balancing act between Iran and US, but it also needs to have a clear plan of action to deal with US sanctions against Iran. In the past few years, India has successfully managed to balance relations between Iran and US, and Iran and Israel. Given the recent sanctions and the hawkish approach of the Trump Administration, it may be tough.

China factor

In the meanwhile, New Delhi would be well advised to follow closely China’s reaction to the withdrawal of US from JCPOA. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited three important countries Russia, China and Europe to save the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “it was hard-earned  deal, and China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal”.

The China factor doesn’t end here for India. Off late, ties between India and China have witnessed an improvement, during PM Modi’s recent China visit, it was decided. that both countries will undertake a joint project in Afghanistan. In recent months, there seem to be some indicators of lowering of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad as well.  Could, Beijing get New Delhi and Islamabad to discuss the issue of  transit trade to Afghanistan?  An opinion piece, ‘Pakistan’s military reaches out to India’, published in RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) discusses the willingness of Pakistan to discuss this issue, but India had turned down the offer in October 2017. Maybe New Delhi, could explore this option, and Beijing could support such an effort.

Conclusion

In conclusion, New Delhi will need to handle the current situation with great dexterity, while US is an important strategic partner, India has also got an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to Washington, that its own interests are paramount, and it will not blindly follow any one camp. In spite of all the challenges and upheavals likely to result from Trump’s decision, this also provides a golden opportunity for re-shaping the narrative within South Asia.

*Sandeep Sachdeva, Independent Foreign Policy Analyst

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Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister puts Pakistani military and China on the spot

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif kicked up a storm when he earlier this month seemingly admitted that Pakistan had supported militants who attacked multiple targets in Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.

Mr. Sharif’s admission, which he has since tried to walk back, put a finger on Pakistan’s controversial policy of selective support of militant groups at a sensitive time. Pakistan is gearing up for elections that would secure its third consecutive handover of civilian political power.

Mr. Sharif’s remarks, moreover, stirred up a hornet’s nest because Pakistan is likely to next month be put on a watch list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors the funding of political violence and money laundering worldwide.

The remarks also put China in a difficult position. China has been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on militants, particularly in the troubled province of Balochistan, the crown jewel in its Belt and Road-related $50 billion plus infrastructure investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Yet, at the same time, China has at Pakistan’s behest prevented the United Nations Security Council from declaring Masood Azhar, believed to have been responsible for an attack in 2016 on India’s Pathankot Air Force Station, as a globally designated terrorist.

The militants, dressed in Indian military uniforms fought a 14-hour battle against Indian security forces that only ended when the last attacker was killed. Mr. Azhar was briefly detained after the attack and has since gone underground.

Mr. Sharif’s made his remarks as China was building up its military infrastructure in Pakistan. The build-up is occurring against the backdrop of Pakistan risking being involuntarily sucked into potential attempts to destabilize Iran if Saudi Arabia/and or the United States were to use Balochistan as a staging ground.

In line with a standard practice in Pakistan that has repeatedly seen groups that are outlawed resurrecting themselves under new names, Lashkar-e-Taibe (LeT), the banned group believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be an LeT front, are  rebranding under a new name and as a political party, Milli Muslim League, that would compete in the forthcoming election.

The League is headed by Hafez Saaed, a former LeT leader, who was last year released from house arrest despite having been declared a designated global terrorist by the Security Council and the US Treasury, which put a $10 billion bounty on his head. China vetoed Mr. Saeed’s designation by the UN prior to the Mumbai attacks.

Activists, even though the party was last month designated by the US Treasury, are likely to run as independents in the election if the government maintains its rejection of the party’s registration.

So are operatives of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, a front for Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a banned, virulently anti-Shiite group that long enjoyed support from Saudi Arabia and operates multiple militant madrassas or religious seminaries in Balochistan that have witnessed an injection of funds from the kingdom in the last two years.

“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s absolutely unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it. We could have already been at seven per cent growth (in GDP), but we are not,” Mr. Sharif said, referring to stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.

Taking Mr. Sharif’s comments a step further, prominent journalist and author Ahmed Rashid asserted that “the deep state of Pakistan is supporting the banned outfits as it has done in the past. This game should be stopped, and the government should show its commitment and sincerity in disarming these groups and not to allow them to enter into politics.”

Former Pakistani strongman General Pervez Musharraf, in an apparent manifestation of links between the circles close to the military and hardliners, said prior to the designation by the US announced that he was discussing an alliance with Mr. Saeed’s league.

Speaking on Pakistani television, Mr. Musharraf pronounced himself “the greatest supporter of LeT… Because I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and I have always been in favour of pressuring the Indian army in Kashmir,” Mr. Musharraf said.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence service are believed to favour integration of militants into the political process as a way of reducing violence and militancy in a country in which religious ultra-conservatism and intolerance has been woven into the fabric of branches of the state and significant segments of society.

Critics charge that integration is likely to fail in Pakistan. “Incorporating radical Islamist movements into formal political systems may have some benefits in theory… But the structural limitations in some Muslim countries with prominent radical groups make it unlikely that these groups will adopt such reforms, at least not anytime soon… While Islamabad wants to combat jihadist insurgents in Pakistan, it also wants to maintain influence over groups that are engaged in India and Afghanistan,” said Kamran Bokhari, a well-known scholar of violent extremism.

Citing the example of a militant Egyptian group that formed a political party to participate in elections, Mr. Bokhari argued that “though such groups remain opposed to democracy in theory, they are willing to participate in electoral politics to enhance their influence over the state. Extremist groups thus become incorporated into existing institutions and try to push radical changes from within the system.”

Chinese ambiguity about Pakistani policy goes beyond shielding Mr. Azhar from being designated. A Chinese-Pakistani draft plan last year identified as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.

Security has since improved substantially in significant parts of Pakistan. The question, however, is whether integration of militants into the political process would stabilize Pakistani politics in the absence of a concerted effort to counter mounting ultra-conservative religious fervour in the country. It may be too early to judge, but so far the answer has to be no.

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Analyzing CPEC Summit 2018

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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road initiative, prioritized by both the Governments of China and Pakistan to build a China-Pakistan community of shared destinies. The strategic partnership under the CPEC envisages number of projects among which Energy Security, Infrastructural Development , Connectivity, Trade,  Industrial   Parks,   Agricultural Development , Poverty Alleviation and , Tourism are highly prioritized. Recently the CPEC summit 2018 was held in Karachi on April 23, 2018 to discuss the importance of CPEC and to analyze updates about the progress and development of this project. Perhaps this was the first such event of its kind in which   representative from all the provinces participated. The summit not only discussed the progress and development of the CPEC but deliberated upon the issue of regional connectivity as the key component of the CPEC. On recalling the last five years’ journey of CPEC up till now, one can infer that indeed CPEC is a chain of connectivity not only within Pakistan but across the region as well. The summit also concluded that Pakistan and China are planning to extend CPEC towards Afghanistan as CPEC is not only about economic growth, but also about community building.

Analyzing the outcome of this summit, one discovers that under CPEC, the country has completed two power projects in Sindh, while another is on its way towards completion. CPEC has resulted in the optimal utilization of two commercial ports and the opening of Keti Bunder. Along with this, the development of commercial ports is also in line with the CPEC plan. The project pledges provincial harmony and timely cooperation and facilitation in this regard.  As far as the electric power is concerned currently930 megawatts of wind energy is produced in Sindh alone for the national grid. Moreover a large chunk of electric power comes from those three Projects which are part of early-harvest program. In addition to this some 300MW is generated through wind power projects and would be part of the grid once the projects are completed in October 2018.

Following this progress rate CPEC is economically beneficial for all the provinces of Pakistan. KPK is contributing nearly 15pc of Pakistan’s natural gas output. In hydropower, KP has the potential of producing 30,000MW of energy. The two hydropower projects located at Chitral are also part of the CPEC framework.

Moreover another important aspect which was analyzed in this CPEC Summit 2018 is the idea of a separate ministry for logistic and transport so that this massive demand for the logistic and transport can be well managed.  Once this separate ministry is formed, the work will be done in the shortest possible time thus resulting in faster growth. Businessmen, stakeholders and industrialist also showed their interests in promoting business through CPEC.  Surely there is a need for joint ventures between local and Chinese companies to enhance Pakistan’s industrial base and productivity.

Eventually once the CPEC project is completed Pakistan will become a hub for transshipment trade. Most of Pakistan’s posts- through which trade is being carried out, are complaint to Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) or International Road Transports. Therefore there is no issue of compliance or connectivity under TIR. It will be easier to import goods and products in other countries thus developing more options for Trade and investment through CPEC.

The initial Phase of CPEC projects of the early harvest program are completed. Now the second phase the long term plan of the CPEC has been started that focuses on industrial activity and agriculture which would be completed by 2025.  Currently work on the Long term Plan is under way, after that in order to take its final shape in 2030 CPEC would be completed and people to people contact will develop, thus resulting in shared trade communities.

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