CPEC: Pakistan, China Extend Olive Branch To India

Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz, the Commander of Pakistan Army’s Southern Command based in Quetta, recently invited India to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying that India’s participation in the multi-billion dollar project could help the two neighbouring countries “normalise” ties.
Speaking at an event at the Balochistan Frontier Corps (FC) headquarters a couple of days ago, Lieutenant General Riaz requested New Delhi to “shun enmity” with Pakistan, stressing that the USD 46 billion CPEC would allow India to boost trade ties not only with Pakistan, but also with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries in the coming years.
With the CPEC aiming to facilitate trade along an overland route that connects western parts of China with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port (through the construction of a network of highways, railways and pipelines), the senior Pak Army officer further said that it would be important for all the South Asian countries to join hands and ensure a steady economic progress together.
As expected, Lieutenant General Riaz’s call surprised India, which had expressed serious concern over the project that passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Earlier, Islamabad had accused New Delhi of encouraging Baloch people to oppose the project. Although the Narendra Modi government rubbished the allegation, the top Pakistani Army official told the audience that the Nawaz Sharif administration would never allow any “third party” to mislead Baloch nationalist leaders.
On Friday, the state-owned Chinese media, too, advised India to accept Islamabad’s invitation, saying in an article (published in the Global Times): “New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the CPEC.” The Chinese media expressed hope that it would be easier for India to promote economic and social development in the Kashmir region after joining the CPEC.
The Chinese state media have also made clear that Beijing has no intention to intervene in the dispute between the two neighbouring South Asian countries over the Kashmir issue through the economic corridor. According to the Global Times, the CPEC will allow India to slash its trade deficit with China.
Meanwhile, Indian foreign policy experts have advised the Modi administration not to fall into such “traps”. They are of the opinion that India should not accept the invitation, as it has already explored major trade routes to boost business ties with Central Asian nations. They further advised New Delhi to use Iran’s Chabahar Port, insisting that the West Asian country considers India as its friend and Iran could emerge as India’s most “trusted” partner in West Asia in the coming days. Experts asked the Indian government not to forget that Pakistan did not allow India and Afghanistan to use its soil for trade purposes.

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