16 Oct 2017/Monday
Dr. Robert G. Darius, an expert who has served with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army’s War College in Washington, DC says “The CPEC passing through disputed areas is not only vulnerability, but an additional source of regional tension, which is not needed in an already tensed and unstable area of the world, where India is the only bastion of democracy and stability.”
The views of Dr Robert Darius have been endorsed by Josephine Derks, senior research analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), a think-tank based in Amsterdam. Josephine Derks said,
“No longer can the international community turn a blind eye to the fact that the CPEC is running through a disputed territory, namely Gilgit-Baltistan, a region legally part of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nor can one ignore the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Therefore, this Corridor serve as a breach of International law and Pakistan’s own Constitution.”
In Dr Robert’s assessment, the CPEC could be a trigger point for a regional flare up as it’s infrastructure passes over land which is disputed and is claimed by India to be part of the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir. This assessment by a former expert associated with the U.S. War College is important as it follows comments made by the U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis, who had indicated that the U.S. Could not support the CPEC as it passed over disputed territory.
The CPEC culminates in port of Gwadar which is located in Balochistan province of Pakistan. After the partition, Balochistan did not join Pakistan and enjoyed sovereign status of a state for precisely 227 days, when Pak Army was sent on March 26, 1948, to force the accession to Pakistan. Since then it is in the grip of severe insurgency. Thus historically the status of Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan is almost same as they continue to be unfinished agenda of Partition.
Construction of CPEC projects has led to more and more human rights violations, to ensure successful implementation of the project. The fact that entire villages are being displaced and those protesting, including women and children, are simply disappearing is being highlighted. Former Ambassador of Pakistan to United States, Husain Haqqani, has openly called for a recognitionn of the rights of the people of Pakistan, particularly the Baloch people, in order to address the injustices being committed in the name of the project.
Similar views about the Pakistan government ignoring the Baloch people in the evolution of the CPEC have been made by Asghar Khan Achakzai, President of the Balochistan Awami National Party. “The development process and all resources were being diverted towards Punjab,” he says quite emphatically.
The US Government has rightly raised concerns on passage of CPEC through disputed territory between India and Pakistan, but the world community also needs to be sensitive to long struggle of Baloch people and their demand for an independent state.
If China is serious about the One Belt One Road it also needs to be equally serious not to fish in troubled waters of Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.