Should India join CPEC?

In last week of December 2016, a senior Pakistani Commander General Amir Riaz suggested India to “join CPEC and share the fruits of future development by shelving your anti-Pakistan activities and subversion“. China called this offer as a goodwill gesture.

We have already discussed CPEC in CGS-2016 here. It’s a 46 billion USD project connecting Kashgar in Western China with the Gwadar Port in Baluchistan, thus giving access of Arabian Sea to China. Gwadar is a warm-water port that will be a nodal point for goods through Pakistan to the Chinese city of Kashgar.

CPEC passes via PoK and is a part of larger “One Belt – One Road” initiative of China. The current discussion is find answers of below questions:

  1. We read in the newspapers that many countries are willing to join CPEC. Which are those countries and what they seek to achieve?
  2. How India has reacted so far and if an offer is made to India from Pakistan or China, what should be India’s response?

We read in the newspapers that many countries are willing to join CPEC. Which are those countries and what they seek to achieve?

First is Iran where we are developing Chabahar port. Iran wants Gwadar to be a sister port of Chabahar and had expressed will in September 2016 to join CPEC.

The willingness of Iran to join CPEC raises a counter question- why that country is doing so when India is already investing billions to build an alternative route through Chabahar port? There may be several reasons. Firstly, CPEC can help them to connect with China, Russia, Pakistan as well as Central Asia in one go because only a small part of additional rail/ road / port connectivity would be needed. Secondly, it is a custom to keep own interest above everything in foreign policy. Thus, bargaining for CPEC will not harm Iran in any ways. This is one reason, that India has not committed too much investment in Chabahar also.

After Iran, the Turkmenistan and other Central Asian Republics have shown interest to join CPEC. Further, north, despite its problems on terror from Pakistan, Afghanistan is becoming a nodal point for China’s connectivity projects to Iran. At the same time, Russia, France and UK have also reportedly shown interest. In fact, Pakistani media is calling CPEC as next BRICS!

How India has reacted so far  and if an offer is made to India from Pakistan or China, what should be India’s response?

CPEC being part of the OBOR project that seeks to link 64 countries, India cannot turn a blind eye to the project. However, so far, India has been a major dissenter due to the various geopolitical and geo-economic nuances. The utopia of CPEC will remain unfulfilled until India is a part of the project and that is the reason that both China and Pak creating diplomatic pressure on India to join the project. However there are several issues with this. Firstly, we have no proper dialogue with Pak and facing cross border violence and instability in Kashmir through which CPEC passes through. Secondly, growing presence of China in north western part of the sub-continent poses greater challenge for India to secure its frontiers. Thirdly, joining CPEC would have its influence on dynamics of Kashmir and money meant for development can be channelized for further fuelling radicalism. Fourthly, cheap Chinese products are always a problem with India’s trade balance with that country.

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