CPEC could fuel political tensions between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue and lead to more political instability, the the United Nation’s regional development artery warns. A new report issued by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP) suggests that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through the disputed Kashmir region could further ignite Pakistan-India tensions.

CPEC
By Government of Pakistan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The 94-page report, prepared at the request of China, details the risks that the corridor poses for regional and global stability. The UN report warns that CPEC could create “further political instability” in the region because it runs through Kashmir, the territory Pakistan and India have fought three wars over.

Tensions in Kashmir reached their highest peak in September when India accused Pakistan of killing 19 of its soldiers. Since then, the Kashmir issue has remained a time bomb that could erupt into a military confrontation at any second. And now the new UN report suggests that CPEC may become the catalyst of a new war between Islamabad and New Delhi.

CPEC: “Political instability” is a factor, but beneficial for Pakistan

Although the UN report warns about possible worrying prospects of a war between India and Pakistan as a result of the implementation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project, it does acknowledge the benefits of CPEC for Pakistan.

The so-called “master plan” released by DAWN earlier this week suggested that CPEC is a dangerous game for Pakistan, as the $54 billion project is seemingly set to turn the country into a Chinese colony. While ValueWalk has debunked the myth of China using CPEC to colonize Pakistan, the “master plan” nonetheless has Pakistanis fired up about the potential of CPEC hurting their country in the long run.

But the new UN report seems to disprove DAWN’s “master plan” document by stating that CPEC has the potential to position Pakistan and the region as an epicenter for growth and trade. The UN report additionally acknowledges the investment, energy cooperation and closer trade benefits for Pakistan that could be spurred by the project.

“China will support development projects in Pakistan and much needed investment to address energy shortages and a stagnating economy,” the UN report concludes.

The report also noted that CPEC could boost both regional trade and economic integration involving such nations as China, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian states and even India.

India’s passive-aggressive attempts to infuriate China

The UN report is not the first official document to point out the dangers of Pakistan-India tensions driven by CPEC. The UN report comes amid India’s joint naval military drills with Singapore in the South China Sea. The state-run Chinese media branded the drills as a direct response to China’s growing influence in the region spurred by both its Belt and Road initiative (BRI), the artery of which is CPEC, and its expanding role in the disputed South China Sea.

The state-run Global Times warned India against taking sides in the South China Sea dispute and provoking China. The report, citing senior Chinese military expert Song Zhongping, said that India’s naval exercise, code-named SIMBEX, was “clearly aimed” at China’s submarines in the Indian Ocean.

Relations between India and China have never been particularly close, but cracks deepen in India-China relations with the implementation of CPEC in Pakistan. India, which has repeatedly voiced its objections to CPEC due to its passing through Kashmir, refused to send a representative to the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing earlier this month, triggering a furious response in the Chinese media.

Despite China and Pakistan’s multiple invitations to India to join CPEC, New Delhi has remained cold and has not changed its stance on the corridor, citing sovereignty and territorial integrity issues as its main concerns. China has insisted that CPEC is an economic initiative and has nothing to do with “disputes over territorial sovereignty” such as Kashmir. China has also reasserted its stance by saying that the corridor does not affect its neutral position on the Kashmir dispute, which Beijing believes should be resolved through talks between New Delhi and Islamabad.

India would lose a war against Pakistan: former Indian soldier

India’s claim on Kashmir is nonetheless a “problem” for CPEC, according to a senior Chinese scholar. While speaking at Renmin University of China, the Dean of the Centre for European Studies, Wang Yiwei, said the heated territorial dispute is “a problem” for the corridor, according to The Economic Times.

In a blog post written for Quartz, a former soldier from India details how his country can easily lose a war against Pakistan over Kashmir – now that China is greatly involved and invested in CPEC. The author argues that it would be “extraordinarily difficult” for India to make any “aggressive move” on Pakistan without “threatening Chinese interests.”

“Any Indian operation that endangers thousands of Chinese citizens working on the CPEC project in Pakistan will draw the wrath of China and give them the loco standi to initiate hostilities against India,” Raghu Raman argues.

He adds that his country has “no operational or strategic options” to disrupt CPEC or win over Kashmir militarily without the risk of “drawing China into a two-front war.”

While Mr. Raman does acknowledge the fact that India has “more soldiers, tanks, aircraft, and ships” than Pakistan, the ex-soldier says relying on numbers “is misleading and irrelevant in military strategy.” In modern military strategy, it’s rather impractical to go to war if you do not have powerful allies. And in this aspect, Pakistan has outplayed India, as Islamabad has significantly enhanced its military and security ties to Beijing lately, largely thanks to CPEC.

In the event of a Pakistan vs India war, Islamabad can depend on China for its “logistics supply chain” and expect China’s help along the border with India by mobilizing People Liberation Army troops, argues Mr. Raman. He adds that such a war plan would “pin down a substantial part of the Indian Army’s reserves to cater for the eastern front.”

DAWN’s “master plan” document, which suggested that China is planning to use CPEC as a means to colonize Pakistan, triggered an uproar in the media, with many Indian users taking to social media to gloat over the questionable assumption. However, let’s not forget that if China did establish a nationwide control – both governmental and military – over Pakistan, India would have to worry about the growing Chinese presence not only on its northern and eastern borders but also the western one.

In either case, it would be a lose-lose scenario for India, or as Mr. Raman puts it, “for all the chest-thumping, India cannot win a war against Pakistan.”

Contributed By Sheeraz Raza.