Pakistan scrambled eight JF 17 fighter jets to escort Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aircraft visiting Pakistan. And why not because Xi was to ink the mega infrastructure deal Pakistan had never experienced before; mainly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at a cost of US$ 46 billion.
A total of 51 agreements were signed in infrastructure projects, energy generation, agriculture, education, telecommunications and research but 30 of these agreements were linked to the 3000 kms long CPEC that would link China through POK to the Gwadar deep sea port adjacent to the Persian Gulf and the strategic Straits of Hormuz, involves a complex network of roads, railways, economic zones, energy schemes and pipelines. With an ambitious plan of completing the CPEC in three years, it would cut Chinese access to energy from the Gulf region by 12,000 kms and provide some 10,400 MWs of electricity.
China also is reportedly providing eight submarines to Pakistan. The CPEC dwarfs the 2010 US assistance package to Pakistan for US$ 5 billion. Significantly, the US$ 46 billion package is three times the total FDI Pakistan has received from all countries in the world put together over the past eight years combined.
It appears that the prophecy made by Agha H Amin, defence analyst and former Pakistan Army officer for post 2014 Af-Pak region is coming true, in that he stated few years back, “….. terrorism will remain a tool of foreign policy while the Pakistani military runs the Pakistani state under a facade of PPP or PML or Tehrik-i-Insaaf. Pakistani military will be hoping to achieve all its objectives: an extremist dominated Afghanistan; a Baluchistan fully fragmented and crushed; a Pakistani political party leading Pakistan fully subservient to the Pakistani military; renewed infiltration in Kashmir; brinkman’s nuclear policy with India; a greater Chinese vassal with far greater Chinese interests in Pakistan…
There is no doubt that Pakistan will be a semi autonomous Chinese province by 2030 or so… Pakistani Baluchistan by 2030 would be a completely Chinese run show…”. Interestingly, the CPEC comes after Pakistan has already leased out Gilgit-Baltistan area to China for 50 years, as reported by US and Pakistani media. Contrast this with the Shamshi airbase incident of 2011 with Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, announcing that the US had been asked to vacate Shamsi airbase albeit US had already halted drone strikes from Shamsi three months earlier post the Raymond Davis affair and all Predator drone attacks inside Pakistan since then were being launched from bases in Afghanistan.
There were calls of national pride getting hurt in letting a foreign power (US) operate from Pakistani soil. It then emerged that Shamsi was built by Arab sheikhs for falcon hunting trips in the early 1990s but had been occupied by the CIA since at least 2004. Confirmation came during the May 13, 2011, joint session of Pakistani Parliament (held in-camera) that the Shamsi airbase was under UAE Government’s authority and not under Pakistani Air Force control.
There were calls of the nation’s right to know the truth about the terms and conditions which Article of Pakistan’s Constitution or law had allowed such an agreement, which Pakistani Government or Parliament approved the deal, how could this happen in a ‘sovereign’ state, was the land leased or permanently transferred including aspects duration of lease, security responsibility, degree of Pakistani control and whether UAE could sublet this base to a foreign power.
However, media was forced to shut down the issue altogether. But now China has dug up multiple tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan region to deploy her missiles supporting her operations in the IOR. So once again where is Pakistan’s national pride?
Security of the CPEC will sure be a problem because of the instability in Pakistan and the insurgencies in Xinjiang and Balochistan. A special protection force is likely to be raised for the CPEC and a force of some 8,000 strong has already been deployed for the purpose. Changes are also being contemplated to make changes to the original route planned in order to avoid unstable areas to the extent possible; only through some parts of Balochistan.
How Pakistan will deflect sovereignty issues is not difficult to guess – raise the pitch of wresting Kashmir from India with radicals like Hafeez Saeed and Lakhvi to mobilize the masses. But sovereignty apart, Pakistan would definitely benefit by way of energy and electricity, aside from trade albeit write ups are already emerging that the main beneficiaries will be Nawaz Sharif and his cronies, other than the military, given the state of corruption. But Chinese strategic gains would be of gigantic proportions.
China already has a springboard in Gilgit-Baltistan to progress operations westwards and south. Her missile deployment in these areas is to support her operations in the IOR. As the dragon swallows more of Pakistan, the missiles could be staged forward through the CPEC either through a network of tunnels or facilitate move by road, rail, when needed. That Gwadar will be a PLAN port should be of little doubt, with Karachi too open to Chinese navy.
China’s duplicity and deceit is again on display with such massive projects in POK while she continues to object to India helping Vietnam explore oil in Vietnamese waters on grounds that the area is disputed. Then there is also the business of continuing Chinese intrusions in Ladakh, the latest transgressions by the PLA having been in areas of Depsang and Burtse. Going by the past pattern of Chinese activitie China, it would not be beyond China to stage a major incident astride the LAC when Prime Minister Modi visits China in mid May.
As the dragon swallows Pakistan bit by bit and roams free to lay her eggs there, her tail wagging across the Himalayas should only be expected. As to what will be the future fate of the CPEC with the Pakistani army chief declaring he will crush Balochistan and China doing likewise in Xinjiang remains to be seen.