Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken the right stance at the first Belt and Road Forum by pointing out the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has the potential to connect the whole region. Since India already pulled out of the summit, citing concerns over CPEC, prime minister took the opportunity to point out that the project must not be politicised and should be taken as an opportunity for the uplift of the whole region.
Keeping the regional view in perspective, the remarks from Chinese President Xi Jinping have further supported the stance of Pakistan, as India refused to send an official delegation to Beijing, reflecting displeasure with China for developing a trade corridor through Pakistan that also crosses the disputed territory of Kashmir.
With 29 nations along with secretary general of the United Nations, heads of the International Monetary Fund and the Word Bank participating in the forum and some of the major countries like the United Kingdom putting their all-out support behind China’s initiative, India cannot stay out of this for long. It can take the lead from Germany, whose representatives backed the initiative but wanted discussions on certain economic issues to allay any fears.
With the announcement of an extra $100 billion commitment towards the project, the commitment of China is clear. But one common concern shared by some of the participating countries has been the transparency of the project to provide a fair ground for everyone. China has maintained that to sustain the projects, Belt and Road nations should allow companies to play a key role as government resources are limited. But to gain the confidence of regional as well as targeted markets like Europe, there is a need to remove any ambiguities to allay the concerns of participating countries like Germany.
Lastly, for Pakistan and India, it all comes down to the Kashmir issue, the main hurdle between India joining the OBOR initiative. With Pakistan betting on the project for an economic turn-around in the region, the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved if Pakistan has the reap benefits from OBOR and CPEC. The only way forward is resumption of dialogue. With more and more countries joining the project, India should reconsider its stance to take advantage of the immense economic opportunities. CPEC holds the potential to boost the South Asian region, and it must not be held hostage to issues that can be resolved. Pakistan has invited the regional countries to join the project. Now the ball is in India’s court, whether it decides to continue with its reactionary approach or decides to find a way forward. *
Daily Times, May 16, 2017