CPEC may be a game-changer project for the entire Asia, but India is doing everything it can to disrupt the multi-billion joint China and Pakistan project.

While China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an ambitious project for improving connectivity and economic integrity in the region, there is one Asian nation that opposes the project and views it as a threat to its security, defense and strategy interests. That country is – India – Pakistan and China’s traditional rival that has nuclear weapons.

CPEC
By Government of Pakistan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

7 Reasons Why India Is Worried About CPEC

India has several major issues with CPEC, which is a 3,000-kilometer sophisticated network of roads, railways and pipelines that connect Xinjiang in China to Gwadar in Pakistan.

  1. CPEC passes through Pakistani regions disputed by India. The two nuclear-armed neighbors claim Kashmir as their own. Islamabad and New Delhi have fought three wars over the disputed territory, including the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1947 and 1965, as well as the Kargil War in 1999.
  2. India fears that CPEC may result in internationalization of the Kashmir dispute, and China – with its tremendous influence both in Asia and in the international community – would eventually win the Kashmir dispute in favor of Pakistan, safeguarding and guaranteeing the integrity of CPEC, in which Beijing has invested $46 billion.
  3. India is concerned over China’s military presence in the Indian Ocean. The CPEC project will enable China to get direct access to the Arabian Sea, which could embolden the Chinese to substantially step up their military presence there, something that India views as an existential threat.
  4. India is worried that China is planning to use the Gwadar port –deep-sea port located in Pakistan’s Balochistan province – to monitor India’s naval activity and allegedly even exploit it to expand and improve its own navy. However, China’s naval power is already almost 4x times stronger than India’s (714 vs 295 of fleet strength, according to Global Fire Power).
  5. India is worried that CPEC would allow China to expand its influence in the region and once and for all tilt the regional balance of power in its own favor, automatically shrinking India’s role in Asia.
  6. India is no less worried that CPEC will bring economic prosperity and growth for Pakistan, its traditional and historical nemesis. Pakistan’s GDP growth is expected to increase to 5.7% in 2017 thanks to CPEC investments. An economically strong Pakistan that is attractive to a huge inflow of foreign investments may fundamentally reshape the balance of power in Asia and decrease India’s role in the region, limiting India’s geopolitical opportunities.
  7. India is also concerned about the rate at which the China-Pakistan partnership is growing and will continue to grow due to the multi-billion CPEC project. New Delhi is particularly worried about the military partnership between Islamabad and Beijing. Pakistan has become the biggest buyer of Chinese defense equipment in recent years.

Pakistan deploys 15,000 troops to protect CPEC

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which came into operation in November 2016 and is expected to become fully operational within a couple of years, passes through Pakistan-controlled Gilgit-Baltistan in the disputed Kashmir – a territory claimed by India. Islamabad and New Delhi claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it.

India has about half a million troops stationed in its parts of Kashmir, with Indian weapons pointed at Pakistan to attack the nuclear-armed enemy in case of any escalation. Earlier this week, Islamabad has deployed over 15,000 specially-trained military personnel to its provinces to protect CPEC.

China says India’s concerns are ‘unwarranted’

India has been a vocal critic of CPEC ever since the project was announced in April 2015. Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the multi-billion project of “overriding [the] sovereignty” of other nations.

While India is refusing to join the extensive list of 60 countries that have endorsed CPEC, New Delhi is particularly concerned that China may meddle in the Kashmir issue and internationalize it. China, which has remained neutral on the long-standing Kashmir dispute since 1963, has already started getting involved in the dispute between the two nuclear neighbors.

Although China hasn’t formally altered its neutral position on the Kashmir dispute, Beijing has substantially increased its interests in regional stability to protect CPEC and its own economic interests. China has been actively calling for India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute peacefully in recent two years.

While India believes China would alter its stand on Kashmir now that Beijing’s economic and security interests in these territories have grown, China’s state media on Friday dismissed New Delhi’s concerns as “unwarranted.” Responding to India’s sentiment that China would allegedly meddle in the Kashmir dispute, Global Times, which serves as the mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party of China, said Beijing has “no intention of interfering in the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.”

CPEC is a powerful booster of economies

CPEC is part of China’s ambitious and costly One Belt and One Road (new Silk Road) project, which is supposed to connect more than 60 countries in four continents of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. The cumulative investment is estimated at between $4 trillion and $8 trillion.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is expected to become not only a game-changer for the entire Asia, but also a powerful booster of the economies of China and Pakistan. PricewaterhouseCoopers projected China to become the world’s largest economy by 2050 with a GDP of $58.5 trillion (over 10x times bigger compared to $5.7 trillion in 2010).

Pakistan’s GDP, meanwhile is expected to reach $4.2 trillion by 2050, while it’s currently estimated at $988 billion. In fact, the South Asian country’s GDP is expected to grow by more than 5% by 2020, according to a growth forecast published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Additionally, CPEC is expected to create 2 million direct and indirect employment opportunities. The joint China-Pak project has already given birth to a number of major economic, strategic and defense projects between Islamabad and Beijing, indicating their growing bilateral partnership. In 2015, China-Pak bilateral trade increased by nearly 20% to $4.4 billion compared to 2014.