CPEC: China diluting India’s sovereignty 

When the People’s Republic of China approves, invests, funds and attests infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is doing nothing short of coming out to certify its stated position vis-à-vis the status of Jammu and Kashmir, and more importantly, the area under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.

The Simla Agreement signed between India and Pakistan on July 2, 1972, declared explicitly two things: respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; and adopting a bilateral approach to discuss the modalities and arrangements for a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir. Pushing this principal bilateral arrangement aside, Pakistan and China have jointly formulated a Long-Term Plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (2017-2030). This plan has been approved by the governments of both China and Pakistan and applies to PoK as well.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform has confirmed that by 2020, CPEC will begin taking initial shape by addressing key bottlenecks. The major hydropower projects under CPEC placed inside PoK include the Karot and Kohala hydropower projects, in addition to Gulpur, Azad Pattan, Mahal and Dohniyal hydel projects. The Kohala hydel project (located on the Jhelum River near Muzaffarabad) has an installed capacity of 1,100 MW with expected commercial operations to begin by 2023. The second major project, Karot hydel power station, with an installed capacity of 720 MW (also located on the Jhelum) is expected to begin operations by December 2021.

Founded in 2009 with the authorisation of China’s State Council, the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) primarily funds/sponsors the hydropower projects cited above. China’s State Council is the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China since 1954 and is chaired by the Chinese Premier. The CTG today has positioned itself as the largest hydropower development enterprise worldwide and the biggest clean energy group in China. The supporting sponsor to CTG is the CWE Investment Corporation, which was founded in 2011 and operates as a subsidiary of CTG.

As part of BRI, Chinese investments are known to concentrate majorly in two sectors: energy and transport infrastructure. In the specific case of Pakistan, total Chinese investments in the energy sector stand at around 68% of the total, whilst the transport infrastructure has attracted 27% of the total Chinese funding for CPEC.

What’s critical here is that the CPEC projects being funded by China inside PoK serve dual-use purposes and would prove instrumental in military terms in a limited war/conflict situation that could develop either between India and China or between India and Pakistan, given the territorial and boundary disputes that prevail in that region. The logistics infrastructure provides impetus to the overall military operational capability, enabling China and Pakistan to commence military operations at, and above, the campaign level.

It is well-acknowledged that Beijing is financing the 1,300-kilometer Karakoram Highway, which is the only overland cross-border connection between China and Pakistan. Beijing is also reconstructing and upgrading the Karakoram Highway (as phase II of CPEC).

The 335-km Raikot-Khunjerab section of the Karakoram Highway is being upgraded by the China Road and Bridge Corporation and funded by China Exim Bank. This is in addition to the re-alignment of the 24 km Attabad section of the Karakoram Highway. Besides, the Mansehra-Mirpur expressway would connect the entire PoK to the central route of the CPEC, while carving out a new route to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Neelam Valley.

The projects placed inside PoK as part of the CPEC –- often referred to as the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative — trespass on Indian territory and sovereignty and challenge the fundamental basis of the principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention, which constitute the foundational principles of international law. By providing this platform to China to firmly expand its sphere of influence, Pakistan and China are jointly causing strain on India’s national security by stirring the very core of state sovereignty.

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(The writer is Senior Visiting Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo)

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CPEC: China diluting India’s sovereignty 

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