New Delhi: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) — is a “direct challenge” to Indian sovereignty, with much of the infrastructure such as fibre-optics and roads being of dual use (both civilian and military), top sources have said.
The CPEC incidentally is a flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which India has refused to join. But sources also said New Delhi was concerned about the manner in which contracts are awarded in the BRI projects in various countries since it feels it is not in accordance with international rules. Indian concerns regarding the CPEC have been conveyed to China, sources said.
New Delhi is understood to have been conveying to Beijing that connectivity projects should only be carried out after consultations with all countries in the region failing which such projects become a “destabilising” factor instead of stabilising the region. It is a well-known fact that Beijing has so far ignored New Delhi’s concerns on the CPEC.
However, looking at the larger picture, sources said ties with China are now on a “normal track” following the informal summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Ties between the two Asian giants had nose-dived last year following the face-off between their two armies then at Doklam in Bhutanese territory which China claims as its own. But sources said Sino-Indian ties had now been “restored” and had in fact been “heightened” much to the satisfaction of both nations.
The CPEC incidentally gives China access to the Indian Ocean through the shortest-possible land route available to it. The CPEC — seen as a Sino-Pakistani strategic project — culminates at the Baloch port of Gwadar and has seen massive Chinese economic investment which is why it is actively backed by the Pakistani Government and military. India opposes the CPEC since New Delhi has always viewed PoK as Indian territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan since 1947-48.
On other projects in the BRI carried out in other countries with Chinese assistance, sources said New Delhi was concerned about attempts made to change rules particularly in those countries in India’s neighbourhood with “weak Governments or weak institutions”. New Delhi is particularly concerned since such changes in rules mean that even private Indian companies cannot bid for projects in such countries.
New Delhi is likely to wait and watch whether Beijing heeds these concerns. But sources said there was no move on any India’s part to consider joining the BRI.
India is heaving a sigh of relief particularly with the turn of developments in tiny maritime neighbour Maldives where a new Government friendly to India has assumed office.
Sources said India had not requested for any military facility in the Maldives amid suspicions in some quarters that loyalists of former Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen may be trying to spread such misinformation against India.
Sources also said China has some “doubts” about the “concept” of the Indo-Pacific amid “quadrilateral” consultations between India, the US, Japan and Australia in the region. Sources made it clear that the “Quadrilateral” was “not an alliance” but rather a “consultation mechanism” between the four countries.