INDIA has strongly criticised attempts by China and Pakistan to woo other countries to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), terming it ‘inherently illegal’. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that ‘any such actions by any party directly infringe on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’. He added, ‘India firmly and consistently opposes projects in the so-called CPEC, which are in Indian territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan.’ India’s response came four days after Pakistan and China invited ‘interested’ third countries to join CPEC, saying that it was ‘an open and inclusive platform... for mutually beneficial cooperation’. India’s objection to CPEC — right since the project was launched in 2015 — is that it is routed through illegally-held Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Earlier efforts to invite third-country investments — including from Saudi Arabia and the UAE — proved fruitless. Friday’s invitation to ‘third parties’ to participate in CPEC can be explained by huge financial liabilities that endanger the $60-billion project, which connects China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan. The project has faced roadblocks and delays due to financial constraints, political instability, unrest and resistance in parts of Pakistan, especially Balochistan. With Pakistan’s economy in deep trouble, the country has been struggling to repay loans and there are fears that it could fall into a debt trap and go the Sri Lanka way.
India’s options are limited because it is no longer just a China-Pakistan project in Pakistan — with China refashioning its One-Belt One-Road plans to suit Pakistan’s interests, CPEC is a part of a project that is expected to link 64 countries. CPEC has strengthened the ties between China and Pakistan, and the agreement terms the illegally-occupied Kashmir region as Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, reports emerged that China is building infrastructure for Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir. China’s deep engagement with Pakistan imperils India’s interests in the region, and New Delhi must make vigorous efforts to apprise the world of its concerns and strengthen ties with democratic-spirited countries.
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