Dear friends, I had an opportunity to participate on an international conference in China where I participated online behalf of Pakistan and highlighted the short comings of CPEC regarding Balochistan, read and watch my speech and share your comments below 👇thank you!
Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen!
Pakistan-China model friendship stands unique in a world ridden with inter-state conflicts, rivalries and wars.
Established on 21 May 1951, Pak-China relations have kept growing with time. Although, both countries have different political systems, follow different religions and are racially different, the bond of friendship has become warmer and stronger with the passage of time.
In the last seven decades, there is no single occasion, where two nations have encountered any difference of opinion on any issue. There is always complete harmony between the two countries.
Few relationships in the history of international relations have endured so long as that between Pakistan and China and even fewer have been described as “higher than the mountains, and deeper than the oceans”.
This is what we call “All-weather” friendship. This description of all-weather friendship is not mere rhetoric; it is based on shared principles and interests, and forms the foundation of cooperation in diverse fields.
Pakistan strongly supports the one-China policy and China’s sovereignty over the Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions, as well as other issues concerning China’s core interests.
Similarly, China has always more than reciprocated Pakistan’s gestures and support. Beijing has supported Islamabad on a wide range of issues, such as Pakistan’s recent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Relations between the two states are not just limited to political and economic spheres.
Pakistan and China signed the Cultural Cooperation Agreement in 1965, which has evolved into the Executive Programme of Cultural Exchange, with both countries vowing to cooperate in the fields of arts and culture, education and research, broadcasting, media, publications, sports and youth affairs.
Pakistan-China relations are perhaps the best example of cooperation between two countries having different social systems, cultures, traditions and ideologies.
The five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence have made the two sides what they are today.
As good neighbors, sincere friends, trusted partners and iron brothers who share weal and woe, we will continue to build upon our mutual trust with the guidance of high-level exchanges, deepen coordination and cooperation on major strategic issues and support each other on issues involving our respective core interests and major concerns.
A wholly new dimension has been added to the historic bond between the two countries by the launched China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, Pakistan is going to become the hub of regional trade and connectivity which are sure to grow rapidly in the coming years.
The CPEC has opened a new era of fruitful cooperation, with Chinese investments pouring into Pakistan, and several mega projects being launched in the fields of power generation and transmission. The basic infrastructure such as motorways, railways, airports, seaports, oil and gas pipelines, and optical fibre linkages are being upgraded and strengthened.
In fact, Pakistan has already begun reaping the dividends of the CPEC rail and road infrastructure projects.
The CPEC investment and its spinoff effects have created thousands of jobs and added 10,000 M to Pakistan’s national grid, ameliorating the chronic shortage of energy in the country.
Balochistan stands at the center of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Starting on the Chinese-Pakistani border, the Corridor makes its way south into Balochistan down to the port of Gwadar, which is the jewel of the crown Under the CPEC agreement, China has committed a total of $1.62 billion for modernizing the port. Gwadar is likely to become a special economic zone, similar to Dubai, Hong Kong, and Macau.
For China, Gwadar could drastically shorten the time it takes to trade with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
If Pakistan China’s vision for Gwadar comes to fruition, it could very well become the epicenter of Chinese trade with countries to the west, a scenario that would reshape international trade in the Indian Ocean. According to the Asian Development Bank, the CPEC agreement offers “enormous potential for Pakistan to boost its economy, reduce poverty, spread benefits widely, and help those likely to be affected by the new trade route.”
Opposition to CPEC
However, as the project has made progress, it has increasingly become a victim of false propaganda, conspiracy theories and covetous eyes cast by hostile forces.
All kinds of wild, made-up and imaginary charges are being made against what is basically a development project designed to bring immense economic benefits to Pakistan and Balochistan.
Detractors’ accusations range from plunder of Balochistan’s immense natural wealth and sell-out of the province’s mineral and other resources to the Chinese.
Who are the critics and nay sayers?
The groups in Balochistan opposing the CPEC fall into two main categories:-
The political opposition comprises two kinds of elements:-
One, patriotic elements and genuine friends of Baloch people who are concerned about Balochistan getting its due and legitimate share of the economic bonanza flowing from the CPEC projects. Some of them have complained that as compared to other provinces, Balochistan has been unfairly treated in terms of distribution of the burdens and benefits of CPEC projects.
They are part of the national political mainstreams and their grievances need to be looked into and addressed.
Recently Jam Kamal Khan, Balochistan’s chief minister and other Baloch leaders demanded public disclosure of details of the lease agreement of Gwadar Port with China, all CPEC projects, and all 52 MoUs signed between Pakistan and China.
They criticized the opaque deals concluded with Chinese companies by the former PML-N government since 2014 and desired more transparent deals.
CPEC has a portfolio of more than $60 billion of which, according to one estimate, only $400 million have been allocated to Balochistan, mainly focused on the development of Gwadar Port.
Investments in road and energy infrastructure in the vast swathes of the province need focus. Balochistan shoulders most of the CPEC burden.
The region has 700 kilometers of coastline, including the deep seaport of Gwadar, which is slated to be the lynchpin of CPEC. It has rich mineral resources and provides 62 percent of the land for the corridor. Its residents will also face the environmental fallout of the megaprojects.
Some Baloch leaders say that out of a total 15 energy projects worth $33 billion, only one was meant for Balochistan while the rest went to Punjab and Sindh. Of the 13 electricity grid stations for 500 KV transmission lines, Balochistan got none. Such unfair distribution of CPEC benefits has given opportunists a chance to propagate negativity among people.
To ensure an equal stake and say in CPEC investments, it is important to engage the people of Balochistan in an inclusive and consensus-based decision-making process. Railway, Roads, mining and Agriculture development can have huge positive impact over lives of masses.
The second political category in Balochistan opposing CPEC consists of the following:-
Sardars who see the process of economic development and societal opening up as a threat to their entrenched interests; and
Nationalist and rebel groups who are opposed to the process of political, economic and social integration of Balochistan with the rest of Pakistan.
Many of these groups are being funded by India and other forces hostile to the CPEC.
It is no secret that Baloch nationalists have long been opposed to the Chinese presence and investments projects in Balochistan.
They are apprehensive about CPEC developments in their province as they fear the wave of investment will bring about demographic changes, turning them into a minority group in their own province.
Since the launch of CPEC, Baloch Liberation Army attacks have largely been focused on Chinese interests. Several deadly attacks on Chinese laborers have taken place since May 2017, which according to BLA spokesmen are part of the “BLA’s policy of not allowing any force, including China, to plunder the Baloch wealth in Balochistan.” Other significant attacks include a November 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate of Karachi and the May 2019 attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar.
But make no mistake: the mass of Baloch people want progress and a good life. About 75 percent of Balochs live in rural areas. They also want to be part of the development process. More and more Balochs are educated, literate, and aware of their political rights.
Besides Balochistan, a large number of Baloch youths are studying in different universities of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. After completion of their education, they mostly remain jobless.
There is a golden opportunity for government to involve the Baloch youths in CPEC-related projects, both to create jobs for them and bring the Baloch population into the national mainstream.
Balochs need to see and feel that the development coming with CPEC is for them.
The promised development of Balochistan through a series of large-scale projects must be translated into practice.
Concrete steps are needed to dispel misplaced fears of Baloch people being dispossessed of their land, resources, and identity. Moreover, their misgivings about economic migration to the province and fears of becoming a minority in their own land as a result are genuine problems that need to be taken seriously.
Cultural and communication gap
A major stumbling block in the smooth progress of CPEC projects is the cultural and communication gap between the Chinese managers and workers and the Baloch population.
It is necessary to minimize misunderstandings and cconflicts caused by cultural differences.
The Baloch and Chinese people hail from different cultural backgrounds. They look different, behave and act different and speak different languages.
They eat different foods and wear different dresses. For an ordinary Baloch, a Chinese man is like someone from another planet, an alien. Another fundamental difference is their attitude to life and work.
The psychological and mental programming of the two people is different.
There is nothing wrong with this, given the fact that they are products of two different civilizations, environmental conditions, cultural traditions and social landscape.
With the CPEC projects gaining momentum and coming on stream, more Chinese engineers and technicians will come into contact with Baloch people, especially Baloch workers who will be employed to complete and operate the projects.
Given different conduct norms and work ethics and absence of a common medium of communication, conflict situations may arise which will need to be handled prudently and resolved.
By ensuring better cross-cultural communication, the possibility of conflict situations arising can be minimized.
This approach will require the Chinese learning the local language and learning to respect the local traditions and values.
Education scholarships for Baloch students of remote areas will also help in promoting people to people contact.
Importantly, Chinese engineers and technicians selected to work for CPEC must be put through courses of studies covering such subjects as Pakistan’s history, religion, customs, politics, education and so on.
Besides, the improvement of the basic communicating skills will also be required.
Engaging in cross-cultural activities will be helpful in getting to know the local people better and make friends with them. More contact will reduce the chances of misunderstanding and prejudice against each other. The process is painstaking but is sure to yield fruitful results.
To bridge the cultural gap it will be a rewarding exercise to take notice the cross-cultural conflict situations happening on a day-to-day basis, analyze their causes and develop systems and procedure to avoid them in future.
Overcoming cultural differences and feelings of strangeness will take time.
This process will go forward step by step. Ultimately, it will become a two- way learning process benefiting both sides.