And thus, we grow
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a multi-billion dollar package whose worth has crossed the US$ 46 billion value, and to some estimation, it goes up to US$ 63 billion. The Chinese officials and scholars often raised the question of the CPEC security. They want to know who is behind the Chinese workers. Mostly they are not satisfied with the explanation given by Pakistani side. There is a need to comprehensively review the CPEC security in the context of geo-strategic situation of Pakistan and its surrounding regions in order to satisfy the Chinese side.
Pakistan and China share a common perception about the safety of the CPEC workers and projects and also about anti-terrorism. The CPEC faces internal and external challenges. Pakistan is fully concerned with the situation of terrorism inside Pakistan and its eastern and western borders. The security of the CEPC is the corner stone policy of the Government of Pakistan and it fully ensures that.
There are three major points related to the CPEC security: The long 36 years war and instability inside Afghanistan, 15 years war of terrorism in Pakistan, and militancy and separatism on China over many decades. The situation in Afghanistan and the border area between the two countries is the major impediment in ensuring CPEC security as well as Xinjiang border with Afghanistan.
There are four major peace processes going on for creating peace and stability in Afghanistan. There is a bilateral peace process between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is often interrupted – some times by the Americans and sometimes by the Indians through political proxies. Second, there is a multilateral peace process in the shape of the Heart of Asia, which is not going beyond annual summits and the Indo-Pakistani enmity. Third, there is the China-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trilateral Dialogue to resolve the peace process. Fourth, there is the China-Pakistan and Russia consultation on Afghanistan. These processes could influence the CPEC security from multiple angles.
India has a different strategy and it is using Afghanistan in CPEC sabotaging activities. Raw has set up a special cell to sabotage the CPEC and earmarked US$ 300 million initially to carry out anti-CPEC activities and this cell is executed via the Afghan intelligence NDS (National directorate of Security) Kulbushan Yadav was the sole RAW agent arrested in March 2016 in Balochistan. Indian nuclear submarine entering Pakistani waters in November 2016 on the eve of the Gwadar Port is another solid proof besides several terrorist activities and bombings inside Pakistan in recent months. Pakistan is vigilant on both these fronts and has tackled these incidents. Therefore, CPEC security cannot view in isolation of these incidents and terrorist activities being carried out by RAW and NDS.
As far war on terrorism is concerned, Pakistan has achieved success. There are no longer Al-Qaeda sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s FATA area and elsewhere after the military Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched in June 2015. There are no more Taliban militants on Pakistan side of the border. There are no signs of ISIS/Daesh/Islamic State militants in Pakistan. Terrorist activities have been going down since 2013.
There used to be Chinese militants inside Pakistan’s tribal areas and their links with other militant and proscribed organizations. They were Uygur separatist militants and ETIM (East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement) elements. They also launched terrorists activities inside China until recently. Pakistan has apprehended a number of terrorists of the ETIM and handed over to the Chinese authorities. On Pakistan side of the border, there are no longer such elements as across the board military operation was launched.
Government of China and Pakistan have a joint anti-terrorism mechanism and intelligence sharing and its is working effectively. There is a close coordination between the two governments about CPEC security.
There are internal challenges to the CPEC. Baloch insurgents and nationalists negatively view the CPEC as a threat to their supremacy. Some of them have backing from India, Afghanistan, European countries, and the United States. Some political parties in the KP want not the equitable but a larger share of the CPEC. The NGOs and their affiliates also negatively portray the CPEC. Government is making effort to counter them.
There are just isolated incidents of terrorists attacks against Chinese workers that are highly deplorable. In the last 20 months, since the project was formally inaugurated, no major incident has taken place.
At three level, security has been provided by Pakistan.
- A Special Security Division (SSD) of Pakistan Army comprising 15,000 soldiers has been created in 2015. The Commanding officer is a Major General.
- Naval Task Force 88 has been created in December 2016.
- A Special Police Force (Special Protection Unit) of 384 personnel was also created.
Pakistan is trying its best to ensure fool-proof CPEC security, which is in its own interest. It should also be understood that the regional geo-strategic situation is not under the control of Pakistan but at different levels efforts can be made. With the passage of time, greater consensus would be achieved.