Brussels: The Members of European Parliament along with scholars and academics have strongly criticized the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) while discussing the interrelated legal, geo-strategic, economic and environmental impacts at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.
They were speaking at a seminar titled “CPEC – East India Company Mark II?” which was organized by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) under the aegis of Jonathan Bullock, the Member of European Parliament.
Junaid Qureshi, Director of EFSAS chaired the seminar and gave a profound insight on the objectives of EFSAS while also giving an introduction to the topic, especially in regard to CPEC’s disastrous effects on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Geoffrey van Orden, MEP, Chair of the Delegation for Relations with India and Vice-Chair of the Special Committee on Terrorism, analysed whether the building of the multi-billion Economic Corridor throughout Pakistan had parallels with the East India Company and argued that acquiring control of trade, inevitably translates into governmental influence, which is very well the case with CPEC.
Geoffrey further discussed the current Sino-Pak stalemate according to which, if the investments on behalf of China towards Pakistan are of such colossal magnitude and respectively the obligations of Pakistan towards China are so unbearably high, Pakistan might find itself in a situation where the only possible solution for overcoming this issue is through its transfer of power, independence and sovereignty to Beijing.
Dr. Paul Stott, Lecturer at the University of Leicester and in the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London and EFSAS Research Fellow, focused on the evolution of the United States under President Donald Trump and his approach towards China and Pakistan.
He opined that “Pakistan has burnt its bridges with the United States and China is now one of its last options for salvage”.
While illustrating the current global balance of power, where the US sees China as an economic and military rival, Dr. Stott elaborated that the relationship Washington maintains with Islamabad is determined by the relation it maintains with Beijing, meaning that the US sees Pakistan through the prism of its connection with China.
Dr. Matthew McCartney, Director of the South Asia Program and Professor in the Political Economy and Human Development of India at Oxford University, approached the topic of CPEC from an economic perspective.
He explained how China and Pakistan have extensive historical connections and that the two countries’ relations go back very far while arguing that the development of CPEC is the natural course of action for the two countries and in essence is a connotation of projects that had been previously planned.
“The financing of infrastructure by China is more opportunistic for Pakistan since the money from the IMF or the United States would have more stringent conditions and regulations,” he claimed.
According to his findings, the CPEC is small in terms of proportions by historical standards and most likely will not make a large impact as may have been advertised. He further exhibited how infrastructure usually diminishes the disparity of prices of goods, yet since in Pakistan there already exists a low disparity, transportation and infrastructure are not the aspects which would drive prices in the country.
Dr. McCartney stated that CPEC will have little impact on the prosperity of the country and could prove to be negative for Pakistan.
Dr. Dorothee Vandamme, Research Associate at the University of Louvain, Centre for the Study of Crises and International Conflicts and the Genesys Network and EFSAS Research Fellow, deliberated upon the role of the Pakistani Military Establishment in CPEC.
She explained, “The military establishment in Pakistan has vouched for a more influential and dominant role in the construction of the CPEC and the building of the CPEC has only further reinforced the role of the powerful Army”.
According to her, this has been displayed via the safeguarding of the CPEC project by armed personnel, providing security for Chinese workers and army personnel and thereby trying to ensure the stability and continuity of the project. According to her data, there have been 15,000 troops dedicated to this division, a number which is expected to rise to 25,000, while China remains Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and continuously keep displaying the pattern of being more inclined towards negotiating with the Pakistani Military rather than with the civil government of Pakistan.
Mr. Fernando Burges, Programme Manager at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), provided his perspective on the negative repercussion stemming from the construction of the CPEC, which goes through the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan, part of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir over which Pakistan does not have any legal right.
Whilst arguing that in this backdrop, the CPEC is illegal, Burges remarked that the indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan have been stripped away of the natural resources of their land and forced to accept the CPEC project without any compensation in return.
He highlighted the fact that those who have opposed the building of the corridor have been subject to violent crackdowns and enforced imprisonment under the pretext of Anti-terrorism laws.
Burzine Waghmar, Member of SOAS, University of London, Centre for the Study of Pakistan, Centre for Iranian Studies, and London Middle East Institute and EFSAS Research Fellow began his speech by quoting the American Analyst of Pakistani Studies, Christine Fair, who described the CPEC project as, ‘colonising Pakistan to enrich China’.
He examined in depth the historical genesis of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir and the evolution of Sino-Pak relations. Waghmar said that it is necessary for Europe to begin to pay attention to Chinese expansionist designs since Beijing is drafting its own parallel system of rules that can be seen mainly through its Belt and Road Initiative.
Munir Mengal of the Baloch Voice Association discussed the severe negative implications of CPEC on Balochistan and Jamil Maqsood of the United Kashmir People’s National Party elaborated upon the human rights violations in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan due to the construction of this multibillion-dollar project.