There are two Pakistani security personnel for every Chinese national working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), indicating the high threat perception to the project despite China’s billing as Pakistan’s “all weather ally”.
A series of attacks targetting the project has seen Pakistan deploy as many as 14,503 security personnel to secure some 7,036 Chinese nationals working on CPEC with most in Punjab which is home to several jihadi tanzeems.
A written reply in Pakistan’s National Assembly said 6,364 personnel were protecting 7,036 Chinese professionals in Punjab, 3134 in Balochistan, 2654 in Sindh, 1912 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 439 in the Islamabad area. The information was provided in response to a question raised by Pakistan People’s Party member Shahida Rehman.
The threat to the corridor comes from Balochi nationalists who have targeted the project and also from Taliban factions who have abducted Chinese personnel working in Pakistan in the past. Though the 2,000-km CPEC is viewed in Pakistan as a “game changer” that will boost economic infrastructure by connecting Kashgar in China to the Gwadar port in Balochistan, the project has attracted hostile attention.
The corridor’s strategic implications are not less important as the project envisages reconstruction of the Karakoram highway that passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, offering China passage through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Gwadar port is also important to Pakistan as it is not too far away from the Chabahar port in Iran which is being developed by India.
The project offers India an opportunity to reach Afghanistan through a port-road link. The distribution of CPEC projects also reflects the threat perception to various segments of the corridor. Of 330 CPEC projects, just about eight are in Balochistan where separatists are opposing the corridor.
Pakistani authorities claim attacks have been curtailed after stepped up security deployment with a special security division comprising nine composite infantry battalions and six civil armed force wings dedicated to the task.
India sees the corridor as a challenge to its security+ as it passes through areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and the Chinese role in developing the region ignores Indian claims on the area post-independence.
(Source: The Economic Times)