China will not give up building the economic corridor with Pakistan through a disputed area in Kashmir simply because India has problems with it, state media said on Tuesday, indicating that New Delhi has no option but to keep an open mind towards the project.
In fact, the economic corridor project will help build infrastructure in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and by building the same in Kashmir (which China calls India-Controlled-Kashmir) help economic integration of the region.
The state media opinion piece indicated China because of its economic prowess and presence in the region could play a role in resolving the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through PoK and India has repeatedly raised objections about the $46 billion project with Beijing because of the route.
The ambitious project, which is part of President Xi Jinping’s grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connects the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) with the Gwadar port in southwestern Pakistan.
One of China’s objectives behind the project is to get access to the sea route off Gwadar port, which it also build for Pakistan.
Last week, external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj repeated the objections with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their meeting in New Delhi.
But for sections of the state-controlled media in China, like the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times, India’s objections clearly mean nothing – and possibly it echoes views within the decision-making sections of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
It is “regrettable” to see that CPEC has become another “unharmonious” factor in Sino-India ties, the newspaper said in an opinion piece on Tuesday.
But “unharmonious” factor or no, China will continue with the project, the Global Time said, adding: “…but China is unlikely to give up on the idea of CPEC because of India's protest.”
“Given that China has developed close economic ties with both India and Pakistan in recent years, Beijing is unlikely to be interested in taking a side between the two countries.”
The opinion piece did not mention that China and Pakistan are “all-weather” allies Beijing and Islamabad enjoy more-than cosy ties.
Last month, the two countries began joint patrolling of the PoK border, which China considers its border with Pakistan.
The article advised India to stop protesting against the CPEC and fall in line.
“The dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan makes the two countries habitually vigilant against any possibility of large-scale foreign investment flowing into the region, but it is the Kashmir conflict itself, rather than any alleged political intent behind the foreign investment, that creates tension in the region,” the GT piece said.
It added that rather than preventing foreign investors from entering the region as a solution to concerns over CPEC, “India should focus on its negations with Pakistan to settle the Kashmir dispute”.
“It is precisely because of the region's worsening investment environment that PoK's economy is still heavily reliant on agriculture. Also, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and India-controlled Kashmir both lack basic infrastructure.”
Surprisingly, instead of Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, the way Chinese state media usually describes the region, the Global Times commentary used Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir at least twice while mentioning the area. It wasn’t clear whether the usage was an oversight on the part of the newspaper or was done deliberately.
“New Delhi may need to adopt an open attitude toward CPEC so the project can speed up development in the region and benefit the local population.”
“Economic cooperation between India, Pakistan and China would create an open atmosphere for launching talks to solve the Kashmir dispute. In this regard, New Delhi may need to take the long view for its national interests,” the GT article said.