Multiperspectives on altering dynamics in the South Asian region and Challenges for CPEC

In post-pandemic world, newly arising partnerships and rivalries are getting clearer day by day. It seems that the power centers are shifting towards the Asian region and the Asia is entering in to the new strategic period. Recent tensions between two giant nuclear powers of Asia in close vicinity of Pakistan are of great importance and devising effective strategies in terms of these changes are crucial. As pre and post cold war era had greatly emphasized Pakistan in past, it seems new cold war era is initiating at gates of Pakistan. Centers of the cold war are the western Himalayan region and deep blue waters of the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. Having a unique geographical history and geostrategic location of matchless significance, nuclear power Pakistan’s role is significant in rapidly altering dynamics of the Asian region.

Recent clashes between two powers of Asia have been facing ups and downs in disputed borders of the Ladakh region and most deadly clash among Indian military and the PLA (people liberation army) of the China left 20 Indian soldiers dead. After the 1962 Sino-Indian war, it was deadliest clash between two nuclear armed neighbours. As India has realized the military and economic dominance of the China in the region, it’s strenuous for hardliners Hindutva supremacists to negotiate for peace. Rise of RSS and the Modi in Indian political map has transformed Indian foreign policy on more aggressive terms. Modi and the RSS have promoted Indian image of superpower which is mistakenly accepted by common Indians and it’s nothing but an erroneous domestic perception. Hyper nationalistic approach of The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is humiliating India and it’s laborious for Indians to accept military weakness of India and its strategic limitations.

Meeting of top officials and defence ministers has reduced growing tensions. Although recent clashes can’t be overlooked but still they are not gearing up to a nuclear war. Role of the US is significant in ongoing scenario as India is a major ally of the US in the Asian region. While following divide and rule strategy, US is working on its hemispheric expansion of influence in the region. With the growing influence of China and Russia in Eurasian region, US seems their growing influence as a threat for US role of global leader, so is using tactics to prevent ongoing century from becoming the Asian century. Moreover, the US has been attempting to impose American-backed hybrid war on the China. Expansionist approach of communist party in the China and expanding militarization of the south China sea is taken as threat by the US and close ally India.  Chinese strategy in the South China Sea, security strategy in the Hong Kong and Uighur minority plight in Xing yang province have been criticized by various political and establishment segments of the US.

Another critical affair which substantially dominates foreign policy of Pakistan is its ties with the America, this relationship has been facing close ally status to an ultimate do more strategic relationship. As a close ally of the US meanwhile Afghan jihad against USSR and war on terror post 9/11 incidents, Pakistan has been largely dependent on US economically and militarily. Peace deal with Afghan Taliban and the US withdrawal from the Afghanistan will hopefully initiate an era of peace. In the rapidly altering dynamics of region, Pakistan’s civilian and military establishment has perceived a necessity to devise foreign and bilateral strategies in its own broader interest.  With the withdrawal of the US from the Afghanistan and shifting paradigm in the region, Pakistan is drifting away from US towards the China.

Chinese communist party’s vision of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has gained worldwide attention with its announcement involves more than 70 percent of the global commonalty and CPEC (China Pak economic corridor) is a jugular vein of BRI. Owing to the reason that the South Asian region still lacks at both national and the regional levels, these multibillion dollar investments will overcome regional connectivity gaps and boost regional collaboration. As Pakistan’s fragile economy is under the stress after being cut off the American assistance, China is the only hope for economic and regional assistance. The China-Pakistan’s interests are multifaceted incorporating social, political, economic, military strategic multiaspects. Expanding pipelines and constructing ports for trade-based linkages and infrastructural expansion encompasses the Silk Road Economic Belt of CPEC. Foremost of all are development of Gwadar and hydel power projects passing through AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan region which India claims as its integral parts. In the terms of Pakistan’s water and energy crises, Diamer-Bhasha dam is a project of unique significance. Thus CPEC is a game changer project aims to avert the US from free access through the straits and obstructing the Chinese economy.

Formulation and implementation of such multibillion dollars initiatives demand affectivity, transparency and sustainability standards. As CPEC projects are seeming anticipating, lots of challenges are on the way for their effective implementation. Security threats and provincial conflicts are some major concerns existing in Pakistan. As transparency and routes are unbeknownst yet to masses, there are concerns of provinces about their share in mega national project. In the ongoing scenario of tense situation between the China and the India, CPEC can further exacerbate the geopolitical situation of region because India recognized CPEC as the Chinese geostrategic security project. After the economic fallout of Covid-19 situation, Pakistan needs easier repayment terms on loans, Interest deduction and an excess return of equity over entire project. It is estimated that the loans from the Chinese government under the CPEC can cause 6 percent annual rupee depreciation against the dollar. Instability in political situation and unhealthy civil-military relations in Pakistan is quite a challenge for the implementation of CPEC as Pakistan’s military controls huge industries and valuable lands in the urban centers.

 Support of local residents and provinces is mandatory for its successful implementation and it is a challenge for government to maintain transparency and clearance about projects. China’s western Xinjiyang region which is weak socially and politically is the main region under CPEC developmental projects. Political and security situation in Xinjiyang is a challenge for Chinese government to tackle crises in the province. Security situation in Pakistan’s province Balochistan and Indian intervention in Balochistan is a challenge for Pakistan as CPEC projects encompasses Balochistan and Gwadar region. China’s growing relations with the Iran and their bilateral agreement for the development of Iranian Chahbahar port is of great significance. Iran-India partnership was a sort of threat for law and order situation in Balochistan and national interests related to CPEC. Pakistan can gain a lot from situation by strengthening diplomatic and economic ties with the neighboring countries. Opportunity for Pakistan is here to fasten the ongoing projects under CPEC and develop economic ties with neighboring allies.

Amna Hanif
Amna Hanif
The writer is a student of M.Phil at Quaid-i-Azam University. She is a freelance writer having a great interest in national and international current affairs and political issues.