ISLAMABAD: Mohammad Sadiq, Secretary of the National Security Division, said on Thursday that Indian plots against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were part of its broader strategy to contain China.
The corridor which connects Gwadar at Arabian Sea with Xinjiang (China) “is seen as a counter strategy of China to address threats at Malacca; hence activities to sabotage this project and Indian interference in Balochistan,” Mr Sadiq said. He was speaking at a seminar on “Emerging Geo-Strategic Landscape in South-West Asia and the Asia Pacific” organised by an Islamabad-based think tank, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), in collaboration with German Foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. He said Pakistan needed to be very careful about the implementation of the $46 billion CPEC which included energy, transportation and infrastructure projects.
India has been vocal in its opposition to the project and protested to China over it. The CPEC counterbalances the Indian plans for exploiting Chinese weakness in the Indian Ocean by blocking Malacca Strait in times of conflict.
“Indian strategic thinkers have proposed strengthening of naval capabilities to fight pressures by China on its north. This thinking aims at denying China free waters through the Strait of Malacca to soften China’s stance on China-India border,” Mr Sadiq said.
Security, therefore, has been a major concern for the project and the military, soon after its inauguration during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad, announced the establishment of a 10,000-strong special force for protecting the projects to be carried out under the CPEC and the Chinese workers associated with them.
The Frontier Works Organisation, which is constructing a 870km road network in Balochistan as part of the CPEC’s western route, has lost 25 of its workers – both military personnel and civilians – in about 200 incidents since the start of work on the road. The statistics underscore the security challenges to the project.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had earlier this week directed the interior ministry to further beef up security for the Chinese workers associated with the corridor projects.
Baloch separatists have been waging insurgency in Balochistan for the past many years, which the government also blames on India.
HINDU FUNDAMENTALISM: Mr Sadiq said the perpetually tense India-Pakistan relations became complicated particularly after Narendra Modi became the prime minister and the influence of Hindu fundamentalists began to creep into power corridors. Not only the bilateral dialogue has remained suspended but Indian attitude towards Pakistan has been marked by belligerence and aggression.
“The Hindu chauvinistic posture of Modi and his cabinet essentially caters to the sensitivities of their ideological fountainheads such as RSS and VHP. These militant groups in fact control the government’s actions,” he said. “India’s intransigence on Jammu and Kashmir dispute continues as it propagates its Hindutva agenda. This agenda now openly threatens millions of Muslims, Christians and other members of minority communities,” he said.
Mr Sadiq regretted that the West, which considered itself champion of human rights and denounced all forms of extremism, had turned a blind eye to the rise of Hindu extremism.
“Organisations such as VHP collect funds in the West which are possibly used for promoting and inciting violence against minorities in India,” he said. And at the same time, he added, the West had been helping India build its conventional and non-conventional capabilities against Pakistan and was artificially propping it (India) up against China.
Former foreign secretary Shamshad Khan criticised the preferential treatment being given to India by the West, particularly the US. “If the turbulent political history of this region had any lessons, world powers’ engagement in this region should have been aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it,” he said.
“Any measure that contributes to lowering of nuclear threshold and fuelling of an unnecessary arms race between the two nuclear armed neighbours are no service to the people of this region.”
He called for mutual restraint for nuclear and conventional stabilisation in the region.
Strategic Vision Institute President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema observed that regional security paradigm was being manipulated in a manner that would maximise India’s security at the cost of Pakistan. He rejected the proposals floated by western think tanks for Pakistan’s nuclear mainstreaming and advised the government against falling for the inducements being offered.
Dr Cheema warned that the breakdown of India-Pakistan peace process would negatively impact the strategic stability order of the region.
FO BRIEFING: Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said Pakistan was concerned at the recent rise of extremism in India. “We expect the international community to take note of it,” he said at a weekly media briefing. “We have been expressing our serious concern over the manifestations of extremism and Hindu fundamentalism in India as well as over terrorist activities of Indian extremist organisations,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2015