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CPEC, Secrecy &…

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is basically a collection of infrastructure projects that are currently under construction throughout Pakistan. Both Beijing and Islamabad have claimed that the ongoing projects are aimed at improving economic and commercial ties between the two friendly nations. However, the New York Times has revealed that the two Asian nations have a secret plan to build new fighter jets in the pretext of developmental projects! This is a sensational revelation, as the CPEC is a part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, a dream project of China. And, Beijing has been claiming that the OBOR project is purely a commercial venture.
It is to be noted that China and Pakistan are implementing the CPEC project, despite India’s strong objection. India had opposed Pakistan’s (and China’s) move to construct railway tracks in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), as New Delhi does not accept PoK as a part of Pakistan. Islamabad and Beijing rejected India’s objection, saying that it was an economic and commercial project, and the CPEC would not pose a threat to India.


CPEC

The concerned authorities in Beijing explained that China started building roads in different parts of Asia, Europe and Africa in order to boost trade ties with various countries. The Chinese authorities also said that Pakistan is an important trade partner of the Communist nation. As per the Chinese plan, the CPEC will connect China with Pakistan’s Gwadar port via Islamabad and Peshawar. According to the Chinese experts, the successful implementation of the project will help the Asian giant reduce its dependency on the Indian Ocean, as it will be easier for Beijing to export commodities to Europe and Africa through the Arabian Sea (via Gwadar port).
Meanwhile, the New York Times has claimed that although China and Pakistan are publicly talking about commercial negotiations, they secretly struck a deal to manufacture fighter jets. The daily further claimed that Beijing and Islamabad would also manufacture sophisticated military weapons and other defence equipment. That’s why Beijing planned to invest USD 62 billion (as of 2017) in order to implement the CPEC project.


A Chinese national flag, centre at the Sahiwal Coal Power Plant in Pakistan, which cost about USD 1.9 billion to build. Pakistan now owes around USD 119 million in back payments to Chinese companies just for operating the plant. Credit: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg

According to the US daily, China recently sent some senior officials to Islamabad to discuss the issue with the Pakistani Air Force officers. They decided to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the CPEC. It has also been decided that China will build sophisticated fighter jets, a modern radar communication station and other military equipment in the SEZ. The New York Times further reported that China might manufacture sophisticated J-20 and J-31 fighter jets which are equivalent to the modern American or Russian warplanes. Earlier, China had helped Pakistan build the low-cost JF-17 fighter jet. There is a JF-17-manufacturing factory in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Although China and Pakistan are yet to use the JF-17 officially, Beijing sent this fighter jet to Myanmar for taking part in joint military exercises. Nigeria is the first country that has agreed to import JF-17 from China.
The New York Times claimed that China decided to manufacture J-20 and J-31 fighter jets in order to boost the current defence project. Beijing believes that the factory in Pakistan will encourage the Muslim world to import the Chinese warplanes. China even planned to build sophisticated satellite communication system and modern submarines in Pakistan. In that case, Beijing will use the Gwadar port of Pakistan to refuel the submarines! It is to be noted that China had agreed in 2015 to sell eight submarines to Pakistan in a deal worth up to USD 6 billion.


JF-17 Fighter Jet

The US is constantly monitoring the development in Asia. Washington expressed serious concern over the Chinese project in Pakistan immediately after the US daily published the report on December 19. As a number of Asian, European and African countries are partners of the OBOR project, the American experts believe that China will definitely try to influence the global geopolitics through those nations in the coming years. US Vice President Mike Pence recently said: “China uses so-called debt diplomacy to expand its influence. Just ask Sri Lanka, which took on massive debt to let Chinese state companies build a port of questionable commercial value. It may soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water Navy.” The US defence strategists have opined that the OBOR project “gives Beijing a strategic card to play against India and the US, if tensions worsen to the point of naval blockades as the two powers increasingly confront each other at sea”.


Gwadar Port

For his part, Director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future (a Massachusetts-based cyber-threat intelligence monitoring company) Priscilla Moriuchi said: “The focus of Belt and Road is on roads and bridges and ports, because those are the concrete construction projects that people can easily see. But it’s the technologies of the future and technologies of future security systems that could be the biggest security threat in the Belt and Road project.
It seems that Asia and America are gearing up for a great geopolitical tussle!

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