Pakistani authorities reveal US’ attempts to harm economic alliance between Beijing and Islamabad.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
In the contemporary world, cooperating economically with China is something practically inevitable for most countries, especially for emerging powers such as Pakistan. Sharing geographic proximity and common regional enemies, Pakistan and China have strengthened bilateral ties in recent years, building a solid economic alliance and integrating Islamabad into BRI’s business route. However, this cooperation has been increasingly sabotaged by China’s geopolitical enemies. Recent reports show that Washington and New Delhi maintain several attempts to dismantle the Sino-Pakistani alliance, constantly undermining the stability of the cooperation.
In a recent statement, Khalid Mansoor, a special adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister on CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) matters, said that the US and India are real enemies of the Sino-Pakistani economic cooperation and that his country must take a position on this case. Mansoor also emphasized that it is unfeasible for Islamabad to move away from its current stage of partnership with Beijing and that it would be a mistake if Pakistan were to back down from this partnership to seek a rapprochement with the Western world.
These were his words: “From the point of view of the emerging geo-strategic situation, one thing is clear: the United States supported by India is inimical to CPEC. It will not let it succeed. That’s where we have to take a position (…) CPEC is seen suspiciously by both the United States and Europe… they view CEPC more as a move by China to expand its political, strategic and business influence (…) There’s no way Pakistan will forgo any of its benefits. It has more than once burnt its fingers in (the Western) alliance in the past”.
According to Mansoor, in recent times, the US and India have conducted many sabotage operations in order to obstruct the CPEC’s progress. The purpose of this sabotage would be to prevent Pakistan from joining the BRI through CPEC. The main tactic used by China’s enemies, apparently, is the dissemination of unsubstantiated narratives and fake news aimed at harming the investment environment. Consulting reports and journalistic articles are constantly published in Pakistan pointing to a “practical infeasibility” of the CPEC, creating a negative propaganda in order to reduce the interest of the business community regarding investments in the platform.
In fact, any report pointing to this supposed “unfeasibility” of the CPEC tends to be extremely fallacious. CPEC has progressed enormously since its founding in 2015. Today, Islamabad is the seventh largest beneficiary of Chinese funding abroad, with more than 70 economic and infrastructure projects underway, totaling an amount of 27 billion dollars. CPEC is one of the pillars for the consolidation of the BRI, allowing the penetration of the Chinese route in Central Asia. Many social indices have improved in Pakistan as a result of the CPEC-BRI, with jobs being created and businesses emerging day after day in a favorable environment for investments.
There is still another issue that cannot be ignored when analyzing this case: the recent changes in Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of American troops and the rise of the Taliban, a new phase started in Chinese business in Central Asia. With the political stability that the Taliban seems capable of guaranteeing on Afghan soil, the Chinese are willing to invest a large amount to integrate Kabul into the Sino-Pakistani route, which will be one of the biggest arms of the BRI.
For the US, this scenario is negative as it consolidates Chinese international economic power and increases the chances of Beijing reaching the status of the world’s greatest economic power. For India, it is a real catastrophe, as the integration between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will lead to an economic and possibly military encirclement that will strongly damage India’s international projection, mainly in the disputed region of Kashmir. In this sense, boycotting CPEC and BRI seems to be the only alternative left to the US and India.
Despite the dissemination of pro-Washington narratives, it seems very unlikely that the boycott will have any real effect. For Islamabad, as Mansoor said, withdrawing and trying to get closer to the West is no longer a viable option. The gains from the partnership with China are not only perceptible in the economic sphere, but also have a very significant military importance. If there is a retreat in the CPEC, Beijing will also stop cooperating in military matters and this will make Pakistan more vulnerable in relation to India.
In fact, the only possible impact with the current boycott operations is with the investment capacity of the Pakistani business community, which corresponds to a very small part of the project. In other words, even if some sort of antipathy towards China eventually emerges in Islamabad, it is unlikely to reach the government.
Perhaps, it is time for Washington and New Delhi to stop acting with a bellicose and polarizing mindset and start a pro-appeasement attitude, searching for sharing economic development, as there are also ways in which the US and India could participate in the investment route of Central Asia. Politicizing economic partnerships is no longer an option.
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