640px-Pakistan_China_Locator.svg.pngTop echelons of the Indian security establishment have conveyed their concern to the government over the recent Pakistani move to raise three additional brigades to protect the 3,000-km long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passing through Pak-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), that will connect the Gwadar port near Karachi to China’s Xinjiang region.
The additional troops, equipped with artillery and chopper support, have been raised to give protection to the CPEC by securing the highway that will pass through Pak-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the Gilgit-Baltistan region, the area also claimed by India. It is here that China wants Pakistan to upgrade the Constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan region that would also bring the CPEC under some kind of a legal umbrella as Beijing does not want to put huge investments in a region also claimed by India. Top government sources say that India’s concerns stem from the fact the China’s People’s Liiberation Army (PLA) is ready for involving itself on a long-term basis in the region and would take up strategic positions to protect the CPEC. In the past also, India has voiced its objection over presence of Chinese troops in PoK.
“”At present, we are keeping a close watch on developments relating to CPEC as well as observing situation in Gilgit-Baltistan region””‘ top government sources told theindiasaga.com.
Islamabad’s decision to set up the special force of about 10,000 troops to protect Chinese personnel and enterprises along the CPEC was also conveyed by a senior Pakistani diplomat who had visited Beijing recently. Beijing has expressed its security concerns as China is involved in more than 200 projects in Pakistan and nearly 14,000 of its engineers and technicians are working there.
Of late, local population in Gilgit-Baltistan region has expressed apprehension about reaping benefits of development even if CPEC becomes fully operational. Protests in the region have been broken with strength and brutal crackdown on the people by the police and Pak army. The CPEC, being funded by China with massive investment of nearly 46 billion dollars, is likely to be completed in three years. The corridor would be used to transport petroleum products from the Gulf region into China.
It was during his visit to Islamabad in April last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping had displayed Beijing’s bold approach to go to any extent to put the Sino-Pakistan relationship on a firm footing and protecting Pakistan’s interests even in international bodies and forums. Describing Pakistan as its only genuine ally in the region, China has indicated it would not shy away from altering equations in the region as long as it suits and furthers its national interests. PakistanÃ¢ÂÂs Dawn newspaper had noted in January this year that Gilgit-Baltistan region was frequently in the news these days for the much-touted US $46 billion CPEC that will pass through this beautiful province in the north to reach Chinese-operated Gwadar port in the country’s south. While there is hope it will transform the economy and help bridge PakistanÃ¢ÂÂs power shortfall, CPEC has also triggered concerns that the local people might be left out of the gains, the newspaper had said.
The 3,218 kilometre corridor will connect Kashgar in ChinaÃ¢ÂÂs western Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar. “”Currently, nearly 80 per cent of ChinaÃ¢ÂÂs oil is transported by ship from the Strait of Malacca to Shanghai, a distance of more than 16,000 km, with the journey taking between two to three months. But once Gwadar begins operating, the distance would be reduced to less than 5,000 km,” the newspaper wrote. However, it noted local concerns as well. Quoting aÃ development consultant from the area, it said that there was a feeling that thke CPEC “”is nothing more than a Ã¢ÂÂblack holeÃ¢ÂÂ as far as the people of the region are concerned.”
Ã¢ÂÂThe government has not engaged with us; we do not know exactly how much or what Gilgit-BaltistanÃ¢ÂÂs role will be in CPEC or how we will benefit from it,Ã¢ÂÂ the consultant said, fearing when the region opens up, it will give short shrift to the locals.”