The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative by President Xi Jinping in 2013. China has invested tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan over the years in this ambitious network of infrastructure and telecommunications projects around the world.
The CPEC comprises a system of state of the art roads, railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, fiber optics for communication, dams, ports, airplane terminals and monetary zones connecting the Western China to the Gawadar Port in Balochistan, Pakistan running about 3000 km from Xinjiang to Balochistan by means of Khunjerab Pass in the Northern Parts of Pakistan.
Since the launch of OBOR and CPEC, the regional as well as the international powers are not comfortable and leave no stone unturned to sabotage this projects of friendship and connectivity which provides a win win position to all stake holders around the globe. This partnership, some consider as may help China to further strengthen and assert its influence. In the past too, militant groups in Pakistan, including the Pakistani Taliban, targeted projects connected to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in order to hurt Pakistan economically and destabilize the country.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan may worsen the situation viz-a-viz Chinese projects if splinter groups decide to carry out more attacks inside Pakistan. There’s going to be a power struggle which would have a devastating effect on the neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan.
Attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan date as far back as 2004, when a car bomb killed engineers in Gwadar, which later became the flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Subsequent high-profile attacks were carried out at the Chinese consulate in Karachi and at a hotel in Quetta, which was set to host the Chinese ambassador.
Over the years, Pakistan has developed a security apparatus specifically intended to safeguard Chinese projects. China being Pakistan’s biggest foreign investor and Pakistan relies heavily on Beijing’s support to bolster its economy.
In addition to an influx of workers for CPEC projects, more Chinese people have come to Pakistan over the years for their own private businesses. The friendship between the two countries is deeply rooted, thus such attacks are unlikely to discourage them from coming in the future too.
However, it becomes paramount responsibility of the host country to ensure the security and safety of all the foreigners and local citizens particularly those who are playing pivotal role in the host country’s development.
The impact of such terrorist acts is multi-faceted as besides stalling the projects, confidence is the biggest casualty as well as the bilateral relationship does come under pressure notwithstanding how deeply rooted they may be.
Of course despite these challenges, there are economic incentives that attract businessmen, especially the Chinese as it is conducive for Chinese companies to relocate to Pakistan, in the face of reasonably good incentives.
Definitely the Dasu blast has jolted both the allies … Pakistan initially calling the incident an accident while China condemning the bus crash as an act of terrorism and deploying its own team to investigate. An editorial in Chinese state media went a step further to say China could use Special Forces and missiles to safeguard projects if Pakistan’s capabilities weren’t sufficient.
Meanwhile a suicide attack attempt on a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Balochistan's Gwadar district on August 20, killing two civilians, further invited Chinese reaction asking Pakistan “to take practical and effective measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future and conduct a thorough investigation on the attack, and severely punish the perpetrators.”
No doubt, Pakistan has made special arrangements for the security of Chinese particularly those working on CPEC projects having raised a special security division headed by a two-star general to provide foolproof security to CPEC projects and the Chinese nationals working on them. But when somebody is willing to come out and kill him or herself for the sake of whatever ideology they have, there is very little you can do, and we can see such happenings all over the world too.
These terrorist acts are viewed in the light of Indo-US opposition to the CPEC and instability in Afghanistan being major causes negatively affecting the progress of CPEC but Pakistan has the potential to mitigate all kinds of security threats.
Pakistan needs to review and ensure foolproof security arrangements for Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as other projects after a recent terrorist attacks.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt General Faiz Hameed, during his visit to Beijing after the Dasu incident told the Chinese authorities about the review of security arrangements and new measures that were being put in place to prevent Dasu-like incidents in the future.
According to official sources that the new security measures would now cover all Chinese investment and workers irrespective of whether they are part of the CPEC projects or not. It may be mentioned that Dasu hydropower plant is not part of the CPEC projects and hence security arrangements were not the same.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to the sources, assured Chinese authorities that Pakistan would provide comprehensive security to their nationals working on CPEC and other projects. Both sides having vowed to expose the culprits behind the Kohistan bus attack and give them "exemplary punishment".
On the other hand, India's position on CPEC has been clear and consistent and as now the Taliban begin their rule in Afghanistan, instability brings uncertainty for neighboring Pakistan and China but the willingness to engage with Taliban and the positive signals from the two allies provide a ray of hope for the future Taliban having categorically declared that the Afghan land would not be allowed to be used against any other country.
There has been increased feeling that Pakistan must ensure fault-free security to the Chinese brethren and it also needs to closely work with Chinese security infrastructure. As both the allies are investigating to bring forth the culprits of Dasu tragedy it is also advisable that joint Pak-China security paradigm may be a better option and an ultimate option.