Kashmir-CPEC nexus

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VIAYasir Habib Khan
SOURCEThe Nation
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In a new geostrategic scenario, situation has tied up Kashmir and CPEC with each other forever. Their correlation has opened up a new window to resolve Kashmir dispute believed to be unfinished agenda of past or leftover from history.

As Kashmir and CPEC are going to be heavily interdependent on each other influencing regional peace and development, their fate and future will depend on how new strategies to be outlined by India, Pakistan and China. Before CPEC, Kashmir was bilateral dispute between Pakistan and India. With the inception of CPEC, China is now billed as third stakeholder.

Kashmir-CPEC relation has grabbed world attention on serious manner when India triggered volatility by scrapping the special status of Kashmir. India did it forcibly when it got angered over the situation that CPEC route passing through Gilgit-Biltistan, about which India claims a disputed area between Pakistan and India, has finally transformed into a hard reality and come what may China is never going to change path of CPEC.

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Indian got panicked on CPEC after Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government released over Rs 183 million for the construction of the first phase of the mega Special Economic Zone approved under the gigantic China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. Mirpur would have the giant 9th Special Economic Zone (SEZ), over an area of 9500 kanals of land under CPEC.

Meanwhile, Indian’s frenzy to end Kashmir autonomy and impose month-long lockdown reflects how much BJP government are afraid of insides voices in Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK) that has been advocating CPEC’s benefits in terms of economic prosperity and peace in the region.

Also Read: Renewed commitment to CPEC

Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and President, J&K People’s Democratic Party (PDP), now under house arrest, remained vocal for CPEC connection with Indian Held Kashmir

Delivering a talk on “Kashmir: The Way Forward” at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai, on 14 December last year, she said “It is important for Kashmir’s future to be included in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), arguing that Kashmir’s inclusion in the corridor will be an opportunity for the State and not a security threat as perceived by the security experts and policy makers.”

The prominent pro-freedom leader of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who is also house arrest now, strongly asked Indian government to welcome CPEC terming it gateway to India. During his interview to media, he said that in order to get integrated with larger economic activity, J&K should join CPEC, part of the old Silk Route, once again. He advised to connect with CPEC which is part of central Asian discourse rather than south Asian discourse. Kashmir can be gateway for India as well, he added.

India always worries about CPEC global value believing that internationalization of CPEC would directly and indirectly impair its control on IHK. According to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – a Swedish-based think-tank – India’s opposition to CPEC reflects a concern over the internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute. It says that there is considerable concern within India that China, which has been neutral on Kashmir since 1963, can no longer be so now that its economic and security interests in these territories are growing. Suchitra Vijayan, a New York-based lawyer who has worked on India’s borderlands including Kashmir, said “India doesn’t want to internationalise the Kashmir issue, but with Pakistan, China, and CPEC coming in, it happens.”

According to research journal published by Punjab University titled CPEC: crafting a rational way towards Kashmir dispute, geo-economics dimension of CPEC has become a catalyst to resolve Kashmir conflict.

“The disputed territory of Kashmir is the key point along the One Belt one road (OBOR) as the road passes from the Gilgit-Baltistan which is part of Azad Kashmir with little opposition from the locals. Indian resistance on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is predominantly based on its stance to Gilgit-Baltistan region. Conversely, Beijing position on the matter was neutral to date but simultaneously, India has asked to become a part of CPEC and resolved the Kashmir dispute through negotiation with Pakistan. Before it “China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, but that doesn’t mean Beijing can turn a deaf ear to the demands of Chinese enterprises in protecting their overseas investments. Given the massive investment that China has made in countries along the One Belt, One Road, China now has a vested interest in helping resolve regional conflicts including the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. By playing the role of a mediator between Myanmar and Bangladesh1, China can gather experience, which could perhaps serve as a prelude to future efforts by China to engage in regional affairs in South Asia and Southeast Asia,” research journal debated.

The report reveals that In 1963 Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino- Pak Boundary Agreement made China as a third party of Kashmir dispute. Additionally, making complex its capability to remain neutral mentioned in Article 6 of the Sino-Pak Boundary Agreement that “after the settlement of Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

Experts opine that CPEC project may inversely work as a bridge between Pakistan administered Kashmir and India administered Kashmir and may have a spillover results on the weak economies of India and Pakistan.

It is fortunate that India broke the status quo on IHK by striping Kashmir autonomy violating its own constitution and as a result Kashmir dispute, languishing over the last 72 years, has all of sudden taken a center stage in the backdrop of CPEC’s growing international impacts.

India believes that it did not take the first step rather it was Pakistan which did so by partnering with China and allowing CPEC route to pass through GB which it calls as disputed area. However honestly speaking, truth is that Pakistan has been exercising restraints even there was opportunity to break the status quo on the status of GB. Yasin Malik of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front emerged as first leader who resisted any change in the status of Gilgit-Baltistan. He wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, making him realize that any change in the status of the region would provide a plea to India to do the same in a bid to consolidate its hold on the held Kashmir.

Now new situation that has come into view after Indian step to repeal section 370 A, Pakistan has strong logical plea and legal foundation to declare GB its provisional province. PTI GB president Syed Jaffar Shah, who is a former judge of the GB Supreme Appellate Court, also argued that making GB a provisional province till settlement of Kashmir dispute has no legal hitch.

Considering Kashmir dispute a disadvantage to CPEC, many think tanks in China have been convincing to India to settle the issue and join the mega project to share the dividends of developments.

Chinese diplomat Luo Zhaohui also officially asked India to join its One-Belt-One-Road project and assured New Delhi that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would not impinge on anyone’s sovereign rights. “Some people in the West misread China and tend to think that the ‘Dragon’ and the ‘Elephant’ are inevitable rivals, and that China would not like to see India developing. This conception is wrong. We hope to see India develop well and we are more than happy to help India develop to achieve common development,” he said in an address at the United Services Institute.

The writer is a senior journalist working for Global Times and China Today. He is founder and President of Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR).

yaseerkhan@hotmail.com

@yasirkhann

Considering Kashmir dispute a disadvantage to CPEC, many think tanks in China have been convincing to India to settle the issue and join the mega project to share the dividends of developments.

(This news/article originally appeared in The Nation on September 13th, 2019)

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