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CPEC: The Chinese Dilemma Over Pak Lethargy

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CHINA-BEIJING-WANG YI-PAKISTAN-FM-MEET (CN) by .
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi(R) meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Beijing, capital of China, on Dec. 25, 2018. (Xinhua/Yan Yan)

The Chinese companies involved in the Gwadar project are quite miffed at the slow progress on the part of the Pakistan government in approving the Gwadar smart city project…writes Rifan Ahmed Khan

CHINA-BEIJING-WANG YI-PAKISTAN-FM-MEET (CN) by .
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi(R) meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Beijing, capital of China, on Dec. 25, 2018. (Xinhua/Yan Yan)

It was inevitable—howsoever much Beijing may wish otherwise, Pakistan is bound to sting, one way or the other. This is what has been the experience of other superpowers who believed that they could change Pakistan’s behaviour. China, which leaves no forum to boast what a great relationship it has with Pakistan, finding to its chagrin in living with a dangerous ally.

The recent point of disappointment, and anger, all futile though, has been the Gwadar master plan. China has invested heavily, in terms of money and resources, and prestige, in the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC). The development of Gwadar into a major transportation hub is key to the success of this project.

The Chinese companies involved in the Gwadar project are quite miffed at the slow progress on the part of the Pakistan government in approving the Gwadar smart city project. The companies, which had prepared the smart city plan, have warned Pakistan that any additional cost-run would have to be borne by the Pakistan government. The Rs 521 million plan was submitted to the government in December 2018. The new government has not moved an inch on the proposal, raising heckles in the Chinese camp.

This is not the first time the Chinese have expressed their displeasure at the typical Pakistani dragging of feet. For the Chinese, the project is of great importance, it is part of their grandiose plan to find footprints across continents, especially across the areas which are rich in energy and mineral resources, besides opening routes to new markets for its products. For Pakistan, it is merely a cash-and-carry offer—lot of cash coming in and to carry the burden of debt and Chinese hegemony. The politicians were enthusiastic about it because it made them look good in the eyes of public—they are doing something worthwhile, and helped them to stash away wealth in far-off havens. The Generals have been whipping the horse because it gave them power over everyone and everything, except perhaps the Chinese.

Gwadar is not an easy place to do business, at least for Pakistan. It sits in the heart of an internecine and ongoing Balochistan insurgency. The Baloch have been incensed with successive Pakistani governments, and Generals, for ignoring their rights and privileges in a federal system. Balochistan, despite being the largest and most resource-rich, remains the poorest region of the country. Several thousand Baloch have been killed in the battle, thousands of others were murdered by the army and other security agencies over the years. The Chinese knew about these bloody history of the place they were investing in. But they believed what the Generals told them—they will take care of everything.

BEIJING, Nov. 3, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Li Zhanshu (R), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 3, 2018. (Xinhua/Ding Lin/IANS) by .
Li Zhanshu (R), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 3, 2018. (Xinhua/Ding Lin/IANS)

The problem is the Chinese do not understand the Pakistani khaki—they boast a lot but are fiercely protective of only one thing—their interest. The Generals are not interested in the Chinese running a free show of a country which has been their hostage for decades. They want the Chinese firmly in a place where it will be difficult for them to get out or stay put, without hand holding the Generals. A glance at how the US have been made to go on a roller-coaster ride would have given the Chinese a foretaste of things happening in their favourite ally. The Gwadar project is just one of the stumbling coming their way. China better look out!

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