Tensions between Pakistan and China on one side and India on the other are rising, as Islamabad and Beijing keep launching more segments of the joint China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. But can Pakistan and India resolve their differences well enough for India to join CPEC? And do Islamabad and Beijing even need India in their multi-billion dollar project?
India, which has been an outspoken critic of CPEC and claims control of a crucial territory for part of the project, recently warned China to respect its sovereignty. A day later, China responded to the warning, defending its project with Pakistan.
On Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi implicitly accused China and Pakistan’s CPEC of “overriding [the] sovereignty” of other nations. Less than 24 hours later, Beijing responded to the accusation by saying that CPEC isn’t aimed at India, nor does it reflect China’s position on Kashmir, which finds itself in the middle of brutal territorial disputes between Pakistan and India.
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India has several problems with CPEC, its criticism comes in part because Beijing is building an economic corridor through the disputed Kashmir region, which New Delhi claims to be part of its territory.
China and Pakistan inviting India to join CPEC
But still, calls from Pakistani and Chinese officials for India to join CPEC are coming more and more frequently. As India continues to take an anti-CPEC stance, many analysts say it would be beneficial for the entire region if the South Asian nation would join the multi-billion dollar project.
Still, India is refusing to join the 60 countries that have endorsed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, although it shouldn’t be ruled out. In fact, by joining CPEC, India would not only benefit economically, but it could also allow Pakistan and India to ultimately reach a peace accord on the Kashmir issue.
Last month, Pakistani Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz of the Southern Command formally asked India to join CPEC, an open project that aims to promote long-term regional development and peace. Two days later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement querying whether New Delhi would accept the good will offer from Pakistan to become part of the $46 billion project.
In early December, The Times of India published an interview with the Hurriyat leader from Kashmir. He said the disputed region could be a gateway to India joining CPEC. Mirwaiz Farooq added that “in terms of larger economic activity, everybody wants to be part of the CPEC.”
Late last month, the Global Times, which serves as the mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party of China, argued that India should join CPEC “to ease tensions with Pakistan and boost growth.”
“New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” the Global Times wrote.
India showing interest in CPEC
It looks like all sides of the conflict – Pakistan, China and Kashmir – are interested in India joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. But New Delhi to this day remains unwilling to join the project.
However, India is starting to show some signs of willingness to cooperate. Earlier this week, India’s prime minister was optimistic about the future of relations between New Delhi and Beijing. PM Narendra Modi insisted that it was “not unnatural for two large neighboring powers to have some differences.”
While India has yet to make peace with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir issue, New Delhi is apparently showing some signs of interest in future cooperation with Beijing, which could ultimately result in joining CPEC.
“For the differences and problems we are clear that we will remain in touch with India and properly manage these differences and resolve them through friendly consultation,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.
Can Russia convince India to join CPEC?
If China and Pakistan don’t have enough influence over India to join CPEC, Russia might. Russia has been an inseparable part of speculations about the future of CPEC, while many argue that China and Pakistan are eager to see Russia become part of the project.
Russia, with its strategic partnership with India that goes back decades, could appease India and help bring it onboard with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In fact, some experts argue that the real reason China wants Russia to become part of CPEC is because it has big influence over India.
Since neither China nor Pakistan has good relations with India, they could use Russia’s help to make peace with New Delhi. Although Russia has strengthened ties with Pakistan, its Cold War-era enemy, recently, it still shares warm ties with India. Even though Russia has lately been focused on getting closer to China and Pakistan, it still has enough influence over India to broker a peace accord between New Delhi and Islamabad, a move that would save the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Why it’s a good idea for India to join CPEC
For now, India opposes CPEC for a number of reasons. In particular, New Delhi has four major problems with the project: (1) the fact that the conditions and rules of CPEC are decided bilaterally between Pakistan and China, (2) the fact that CPEC passes through the disputed Kashmir territory, (3) India believes CPEC would promote terrorism in Kashmir, which it claims its own territory, and (4) India believes China will use Gwadar Port for its own military purposes.
In reality, there is no evidence to back up claim number that CPEC would promote terrorism in Kashmir. On the contrary, terrorism is a threat to the project, and both the Pakistanis and Chinese agree on this. There’s also no evidence for number four, that China is planning to use Gwadar Port for its naval purposes. In fact, Gwadar is a purely commercial project, and Beijing has never requested access to use the port for any kind of military purposes.
While the prospects of India joining the project remain unclear, all players in the region, including Pakistan, China and India itself, would benefit from the country’s involvement in the project, in part because it would ultimately lower tensions between Pakistan and India and help resolve the long-standing Kashmir issue.