The surge in deadly attacks by Baloch separatists in Pakistan has increased the risks and costs of China’s Belt and Road ambitious projects, including CPEC, while its interests in the strategic Port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea are caught in a proxy war between Islamabad and Tehran, according to media reports.
Security risks and costs The 60 billion US-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) rises amid a revival of deadly attacks by separatists in troubled Balochistan province, home to China-operated Gwadar Port, a report in Hong Kong based in Hong Kong. The South China Morning Post said on Saturday.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes. CPEC is an ambitious BRI flagship project by President Xi Jinping.
In the third such attack since May, militants opened fire on a paramilitary convoy patrolling the Panjgur district on Tuesday, killing three soldiers and wounding eight others, including an army colonel.
The militant Baloch ethnic factions have also recently expanded the scope of their operations to neighboring Sindh province and the provincial capital, Karachi, according to the report.
Beijing bets on Sindh are as high as those in resource-rich Balochistan, he said.
Chinese state-owned companies run container terminals in the port of Karachi and have invested in nuclear and coal power projects established under the CPEC umbrella and in partnership with local companies, he said.
On June 29, four militants were killed by police commandos when they tried to shoot at the Karachi Stock Exchange, which is 40 percent owned by a consortium of three Chinese bourses.
“Baloch groups not only intensify their attacks but also expand the reach of their terrorist violence outside Balochistan, but it is difficult to predict whether this trend will persist,” Mohammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Peace Studies Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank, told Post.
He said the Baloch rebel faction had historically preferred to carry out low-intensity attacks, while their high-intensity attacks tended to come in waves that lasted “only for a few weeks”.
Rana said the CPEC projects and Chinese personnel remained well protected by the 13,700-member Special Security Division, led by a two-star Pakistani Army general, established in 2017.
“Only low intensity attacks were reported around the CPEC project site, but the financial costs of security (to Pakistan) are high,” he said.
Beijing’s political risk also increased due to a new wave of public outrage in many parts of Balochistan over human rights violations by Pakistani forces deployed to crush the low-intensity insurgency in the province, the report said.
In June, Akhtar Mengal, leader of the Balochistan-Mengal National Party, parted ways with the ruling coalition led by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, citing the government’s failure to stop forced disappearances carried out by the state.
In a subsequent interview with the BBC Urdu service, Mengal said more than 1,500 Baloch had “disappeared” since Prime Minister Khan took office in 2018 and claimed that he had personally secured the release of nearly 500 people from detention by security forces. .
Due to the political and security situation in Balochistan, China’s CPEC investment in the province has so far been limited to the development of the Gwadar Port and the road that connects it with the coastal highway to Karachi.
The port is not yet fully operational and only recently handles Afghan transhipment cargoes. The city continues to suffer from severe electricity and water shortages, the report said.
Also, Chinese geopolitical interests in Gwadar, the Arabian Sea outlet of the corridor, running from Xinjiang, have been caught in a web of espionage and proxy wars involving Pakistan and Iran, he said. Iran is very suspicious of Pakistan and its relations with arch-rival Saudi Arabia, especially because Riyadh was invited in late 2018 to build an oil refining and 10 billion-dollar oil storage facility in Gwadar.
“Iranians feel that Pakistan has not done enough to secure the border on its side,” said Seyed Mohammed Marandi, a professor of English literature and oriental studies at Tehran University and a well-known political commentator.
“A lot of Saudi money is flowing to extremist groups in the region and the Saudis have funded this [Jaish ul-Adl] terrorist, “he told the Post.
Likewise, Pakistan is very concerned about India’s involvement in Iran’s Chabahar Port, which competes with Gwadar for cargo transiting into landlocked Afghanistan.
Politicians have warned that popular hatred of federal government policy in Balochistan is very close to triggering a wider uprising, he said.
Former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari said last month the country needed to be “more careful in Balochistan”.
Correspondent Kiyya Baloch said China’s security concerns will continue to drag the pace at which CPEC projects in Gwadar have been developed.
“Despite the increasing diplomatic involvement, it is very unlikely that Beijing will make a significant further investment in Gwadar until security is improved,” Baloch said.