10 years of CPEC: A Quest for Regional Stability

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an effort to increase regional connectivity, shared development, and growth in South Asia has entered its second phase recently. The developments concerning CPEC in the first phase are subjected to many geopolitical hurdles. Even though both Pakistan and China have acknowledged this project as a bilateral effort to promote regional stability and development, India has opposed the developments, and the state has been the major antagonist on the regional level, compelling other small states to follow the pursuit. The inclination of the United States towards India, the China-India competition, the territorial sovereignty of India, and the arch rivalry with Pakistan are the impetus behind India’s negative approach toward regional development. The article analyses how the Indian-centric approach of the Indian government which advocates India as the main player in every regional and international development has hindered the progress and development of CPEC and how it has destabilized the South Asian region.

 

Constituting 27% of the population in the world, the South Asian region has its geo-political importance in the world, the development of norms like shared development and inclusive growth will be benefitting every state in the region. CPEC is not limited to empowering China and Pakistan, it has broader goals that will benefit Afghanistan, Iran, and other Central Asian Republic states. In South Asia, the concept of economic interdependence is present yet the relations between states remain unresolved and destabilized.

 

Economic initiatives like CPEC in South Asia demand polarity between economics and politics. The arch rivalry between India and Pakistan is highly influential in deciding the future of the Chia-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India has perceived CPEC as a threat to its territorial sovereignty as it passes through the northern region of Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan on the other hand, has made clear that CPEC is a regional economic initiative, aimed at collective development and it has nothing to do with the territorial disputes between us. Beijing also asserted the narrative that Interstate conflict should not hinder India from acknowledging this economic corridor. Despite several efforts, new Delhi had remained stubborn in its narrative. Pakistan had tried several times, the recent visit of the foreign minister to India, and the release of Abhinandan in 2019, to extend the hand of friendship towards India but India has always kept its strict approach towards Pakistan, without acknowledging these efforts.

 

Indian economic global outlook has been tremendous. India has become a responsible state economically but ideological sentiments of the state’s government have led it into the trap of domestic issues. CPEC has the power to transform India into a peaceful state, as it will become easier for northern India to develop investments with neighbouring nations. The trade and investment in the northern part of the state will highly contribute to maintaining government relations with its ethnicities. Besides this fact, the peaceful relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India should promote a peaceful and developed South Asia. The importance of CPEC in strengthening the regional and international political landscape for India is matchless but its Hindutva-led ideology which promotes an anti-muslim narrative does not allow it to support an economic initiative led by Pakistan. This highlights how India is spreading misinformation in the name of CPEC, saying it is a territorial expansion by Pakistan, when there are more reasons to it.

 

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), an economic corridor by the United States, is perceived as an economic corridor by the US in the Indo-Pacific to counter the Chinese influence in the region. The founding membership of India in the IPEF reflects the state’s hypocritic policies and strategies in South Asia. India has been reluctant to acknowledge the developments of the CPEC and contribute to its operationalization but it has explicitly played its role in economic initiative by a Western power to counter Chinese influence and the CPEC. In South Asia, the power dynamics have shifted towards China after the Chinese military modernization and China is seen as the main player in the political landscape of South Asia. India, instead of supporting CPEC which aims at regional connectivity and is initiated by the regional power has prioritized its parochial interests by strengthening its alliance with the United States. The IPEF will not strengthen South Asia, instead, it will be weakening the region through increased Western involvement in regional politics and economy.

 

In the post-cold War world, the thinking of political leaders has evolved, now a state’s decisions are motivated by cost-benefit analysis instead of ideological sentiments and long-standing animosities. CPEC has the power to transform South Asia into a hub of economy and trade and India, along with China and Pakistan can play an important role in its operationalisation. Indian role in global politics has immensely increased and a well-developed India will require peaceful Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will only be possible through CPEC. All in all, there is no doubt that CPEC will be functional with or without India but as defined its goals are broad so the more the regional states will cooperate with each other, the more beneficial CPEC will be for the region.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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