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India’s objections to CPEC

ONCE it is decided that the time has come for Pakistan and India to undergo another round of heightened hostilities there is never a dearth of issues to build up in order to sustain the tension.

There is always a cricket series that can be put on hold. There is easy “evidence” furnished by the Pakistani state about India’s spy agency RAW fomenting trouble via its Pakistan-based proxies. There is Kashmir, with its “Pakistan-trained infiltrators” emerging from the shadows, according to Indian reports.

In short, there are many differences that can be used to hold up whatever little progress has been achieved by the two countries on the peace agenda.

Now, amidst all the predictions of economics acting as the sole, or dominant, factor shaping international politics, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor — to which the Indian foreign minister has unjustifiably voiced strong objections — threatens to open up yet another front for the trademark waving of clenched fists by Islamabad and New Delhi.

On Sunday, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj told journalists in Delhi that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken up the issue of the $46bn corridor running from Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang region with the Chinese government and had termed it “unacceptable” — a stance which has been criticised by Pakistan.

Even though India’s concerns appear to be rooted in a territorial dispute as it claims the corridor will run though Pakistan’s Kashmir region, such an attitude is both petty and unfortunate.

Apart from the fact that CPEC is a bilateral matter, the project, if implemented in a transparent manner and keeping the aspirations of all stakeholders in mind, has the potential to transform the economics of the region for the better.

Much will of course depend on efforts inside Pakistan, but the corridor can be seen as part of a larger plan to focus on connectivity that benefits more than one country in the region.

The objections to CPEC are also a reflection of the deteriorating ties between India and Pakistan in the larger context. The days when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hinted at better relations between the two countries have long passed.

In search of a common, recognisable ‘enemy’ to hit out at, Pakistanis are increasingly falling back on the old ‘hate-India’ mantra to build national cohesion.

Across the border, there are signs that the ‘nationalist’ Indian rulers believe that raising the Pakistan bogey for the present would benefit them. In addition, the BJP government does not see a resumption of dialogue between the two countries soon, linking talks with action in Pakistan against those accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Such mistrust between the two has impeded progress in so many areas, besides doing nothing to tap the potential of the region’s billion-plus inhabitants. A negative approach to CPEC will not change that.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2015

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