Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, has accused India’s RAW intelligence agency of being “actively involved” in destabilising the country, including attempts to sabotage a $46-billion economic corridor with China.
Sharif made the remarks on Tuesday at a seminar in Gwadar, the port in Balochistan that will play a crucial role in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan’s security establishment often alleges RAW is involved in fomenting unrest but it is rare for an army chief to raise the issue at a public forum.
“In this context, I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbour, has openly challenged this development initiative,” Sharif said in his address that was beamed live by news channels.
“I would like to make a special reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW that is blatantly involved in destabilising Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan. Therefore, it is important for all to leave behind confrontation and focus on cooperation.”
Despite attempts to sabotage the CPEC, Sharif said, the project will become operational soon and the first cargo shipment from China will reach the Gwadar deep seaport this year. He added “hostile intelligence agencies are averse to this grand project”.
“Insha Allah, this year, we will move cargo from heartland China to Gwadar and beyond, fulfilling our dream,” he said. He pledged to ensure the security of the corridor, saying a 15,000-strong force is already in place under the ambit of a special security division.
There was no immediate reaction from India to Sharif’s comments but India has dismissed past allegations that RAW is involved in fomenting unrest in Pakistan.
India has opposed the CPEC because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It has also raised this matter with China.
Sharif described the CPEC as a corridor of peace and prosperity and said it was a grand manifestation of the deep-rooted ties between China and Pakistan. “It (CPEC) will bind all these nations together and bring about an economic transformation through enhanced connectivity,” he said.
He asked the world community to acknowledge Pakistan’s “successes and sacrifices” and to “come forward in blocking external help to terrorist organisations and their facilitators, abettors and financiers”.
While many world powers had appreciated the potential of CPEC as a catalyst of economic transformation of the region, the project had raised eyebrows among “those competing for influence in the region”, he said without giving details.
The arrest of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav in Balochistan last month on charges of espionage marked a new low in bilateral ties. India acknowledged Jadhav was a former naval officer but denied he was involved in spying for RAW. Talks between the two countries were suspended following the January 2 terror attack on Pathankot airbase that was blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The CPEC will give China greater access to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through Pakistan. It is part of Beijing’s plans to expand its trade and transport footprint in the region, while countering US and Indian influence.