CPEC: Will India Start War With Pakistan And China Over It?

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With China and Pakistan actively working on the CPEC, the uptick of irresponsible propaganda pieces coming from politicians and analysts – originating mostly from India – shows no sign of stopping.

India, Pakistan’s traditional rival, has a number of issues with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is seen as a game-changer for Pakistan, China and Asia as a whole. China and Pakistan’s cooperation on the project has sparked numerous propaganda pieces throwing mud at the CPEC.

China’s embassy in Islamabad has already slammed the rise of propaganda pieces directed at thwarting the CPEC, calling the situation “really shameful.” As Beijing and Islamabad make huge progress on the CPEC, their close cooperation continues proving anti-CPEC analysts wrong.

The CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer network of roads, railways and pipelines that connects Kashgar and Gwadar, passing through Pakistani regions disputed by India. India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as their own territory and have already waged three wars over it. While the recently re-ignited tensions over the region result in casualties almost every day despite the ceasefire, some experts believe that India’s grievances over the CPEC might lead to a direct military confrontation.

Anti-CPEC propaganda pieces are wrong

Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor for Forbes, believes that the anti-CPEC propaganda is wrong. Mourdoukoutas argues that China has to either appease India or “forget” about the CPEC project.

A number of Indian government officials have expressed their concerns about the CPEC since the project was announced more than three years ago. And while India, as alleged by Pakistan, has made numerous attempts to disrupt the project, the chances that India might actually start a war with China and Pakistan over the project remain zero.

In fact, former Indian Ambassador Melkulangara Bhadrakumar said India would “lose heavily” if it remained opposed and isolated from the CPEC. However, numerous Indian government officials believe the CPEC is designed to undermine India’s position in the region and see the project as a threat to India’s interests.

While that creates tensions between China and Pakistan on one side and India on the other, authors of anti-CPEC propaganda pieces seem unable to provide at least one legitimate reason as to why India would go to war with China and Pakistan over the project.

China will protect the CPEC at all costs, as the project is worth a whopping $46 billion and is a game-changer for both China and Pakistan. Disrupting the project would mean a direct declaration of war to China and Pakistan, and India knows it.

This past summer, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations suggested that Beijing will have “to get involved” if New Delhi attempts to disrupt the project.

China is more attractive to investors than India

In his piece arguing that China is lagging behind India in terms of investments, Mourdoukoutas provides data that suggests India’s economic growth is set to outpace China. Although India currently enjoys the rise of its economy, the country is becoming less attractive for investors in the long run. The reason is because India is a “highly crowded trade,” as said by Herald van der Linde, head of Asia Pacific equity strategy for HSBC’s Asia Equity Insights Quarterly.

“High fund holdings, premium valuations and slow pace of reforms make us reluctant to enter the market,” van der Linde wrote, adding that India’s earnings growth expectations are also slowing down.

Will India go to war with China and Pakistan over the CPEC?

In his article, Mourdoukoutas also suggests, “If pro-Indian forces in Pakistan sabotage China’s CPEC route,” China should expect an open confrontation against India.

Mourdoukoutas also argues that this is why Beijing “should either appease New Delhi or forget about CPEC altogether.”

An open military confrontation between the world’s two most populous countries is very unlikely, especially considering the fact that India has already made several large-scale attempts to sabotage the CPEC. Earlier this year, Pakistan alleged it had arrested a spy from India’s RAW, Kulbhushan Yadav. Islamabad believes that Yadav is responsible for hindering the implementation of CPEC projects in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

The scandal spurred numerous high-ranking Pakistani officials to criticize India for its attempts to disrupt the CPEC via espionage. In April, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif openly accused India’s primary foreign intelligence agency – RAW – of attempting to disrupt the implementation of various CPEC projects.

International players keen on investing in Pakistan

India has no hard evidence that would suggest the CPEC is a direct threat to it. New Delhi wouldn’t get involved in a military confrontation over nothing. And while India indeed has a lot to lose if it remains isolated from the project, New Delhi wouldn’t get involved in the project as a matter of principle, as India has territorial disputes with both China and Pakistan, the co-creators of the lucrative project.

Although the project is still underway, Pakistan is already becoming a place of high interest for investment opportunities. Several countries, including Afghanistan, Russia and Kazakhstan, are taking interest in investing in the CPEC.

On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Turkish investors to benefit from the CPEC during a Pak-Turk roundtable conference in Islamabad with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey and Pakistan are strengthening their economic ties, which is why if Turkey invests in the CPEC, it would further expand their economic relations and be beneficial for both countries.

France is also taking a huge interest in Pakistan. The embassy head of France’s Regional Economic Department for India and South Asia, Jean Marc Fenet, recently said that France views Pakistan as a huge market for business.

CPEC enables China to monitor Indian and American naval activities

There’s also a widespread theory which suggests that thanks to the CPEC, the Gwadar seaport could turn into China’s naval base in the Indian Ocean. Thus, China would be able to monitor Indian and U.S. naval activities, which Beijing perceives as a threat to its interests.

There are a number of other benefits for China as well. Access to the Indian Ocean would also enable China’s naval warships and merchant ships to bypass Malacca Strait. Thus, China would be able to, once and for all, solve its Malacca Dilemma. Today about 80% of all oil from China is transported by ships from the Strait of Malacca to Shanghai.

The distance between the two destinations amounts to over 16,000 km, while it takes ships two to three months to reach the destination. Having access to the Indian Ocean via Gwadar would reduce that distance to less than 5,000 km.

The CPEC, which will link China with nearly half of the world’s population, will also ensure safe passage of China’s shipments through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Pakistan also has a lot to gain from the project, as it’ll finally all ease its energy shortages. The project will also bring greater cohesion in South Asia.

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