Srinagar: A strong desire to find alternative economic road link for valley is convincing the business community, and political parties across the party lines of Jammu to Kashmir, to explore the possibility of joining the $46 billion worth China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), often billed as a game changer in South Asia, likely to boost the economic condition of both China and Pakistan.
The 1300-kilometre CPEC is an ambitious economic and development project, including power projects, roads and railways, which will connect Chinas Xinjiang with Pakistans Gwadar. Reportedly, Pakistan is aiming to make Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province to safeguard the Chinese interests in the region. The separatists in the Valley, however, have vehemently opposed the move.
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggests that Pakistan could become the worlds 16th largest economy by 2050 and possibly overtake countries like Canada and Italy by then.
Since work on it started, India has been opposing the project, as it passes through the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in Gilgit-Baltistan. New Delhi has expressed strong opposition to the project, which is the key to Beijing’s ambitious ‘One-Belt, One-Road’ initiative.
“The CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir challenges Indian sovereignty,” Union defence ministry said in its annual report submitted to the Parliament recently. On the other hand, China had said that CPEC wont effect its on Kashmir.
As a leftover issue from history between India and Pakistan, it needs to be properly settled through dialogue and consultation between the two sides, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said recently.
However, in Jammu and Kashmir, the business community sees a new ray of hope in the CPEC project. The issue was discussed recently at a seminar organised by Srinagar based think-tank The Kashmir Institute, where the universal view was that making Kashmir part of the CPEC, in some form will be beneficial.
During the discussion, Mubeen Shah, former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry strongly advocated for two divided sides of Kashmir to be declared as a single free economic zone. Both India and Pakistan need to be specific about their political positions, said Shah. The CPEC might not change everything but it is a first step towards final settlement of Kashmir issue. We can focus on horticulture, textiles and other industries. The distance will be reduced and the road between Kashmir and Central Asia will be much cheaper.
A few days later, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also suggested that the Jammu and Kashmir can become the gateway to Central Asia and it could become a corridor of economic activity in the region, and the country could benefit from the economic activities going on across LoC.
Why cant we be partners in economic growth and share the benefits of projects like CPEC. Let us move beyond skirmishes, she told a gathering in Delhi. It would make the region a hub of emerging economic opportunities leading to cooperation in trade, commerce, tourism, adventure across the region.
Even the separatist Chairman of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in a recent interview said that though there is a rift between China and India, he believes all countries of the region will benefit from the CPEC in the longer run.
India should not stay out of it. There is also an opportunity for India to assess the economic advantages it can have by being part of it. Kashmir can in fact become a gateway for India to be part of the CPEC, provided there is a settlement of the dispute first. Stronger the CPEC becomes, more the need to resolve disputes in the region, he said.
China and Pakistan has left the door for India open but any decision on this issue will have political implications on the Jammu and Kashmir. For CPEC to be successful, experts opine that peace in Kashmir is inevitable. It has to be seen how will the Narendra Modi government deal with the rising demand of joining CPEC in Kashmir and Chinas growing influence in South Asia.
People Of PaK Biggest Beneficiaries Of CPEC: Er. Rashid
Incumbent Langate lawmaker Er Rasheed on Tuesday said that while New Delhi has strong reservations over construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), for the reason that this historic corridor passes through disputed territory of J&K including Gilgit Baltistan, but it needs to be told that people of J&K living on the other side of LOC will be the biggest beneficiaries of CPEC.
While a bus service from Mirpur (Azad Kashmir) to Barmingam (UK) is now a matter of months, people of Keran and Gurez have been left at the mercy of ruthless weathers for the want of even ordinary roads, Rasheed said.
He said that all these facts prove that New Delhi just wants land of Kashmir and hardly cares whether people get trapped for months on Srinagar National Highway or lose their lives in Karen, Gurez and other far flung places.
He added that not only New Delhi is looting the resources of J&K through NHPC and other means but in absence of a proper road connectivity Kashmir has become a money making machine for various airlines and this all is the reason that New Delhi wants to see Kashmiris bankrupt, so that it gets easy for it to make economy of J&K totally controlled and dependable on India.
Coming down heavily on GoI for treating J&K like its colony, Rasheed said that it is strange, shameful and horrible that India has not been able to construct even a durable Highway from Jammu to Srinagar for last 70 years.
In a statement issued on Tuesday Er Rasheed said, It takes every Indian Prime Minister little to claim J&K as its integral part but the Srinagar Jammu road which has been given the status of so called National Highway, has become a road of death and destruction and New Delhi has completely ignored the sufferings of people of state by not developing this road to the status of international standards and the ground requirements.
Rasheed added that it is terrible that neither people of J&K are being allowed to use their natural routes, all of which lead to Pakistan nor is New Delhi showing any interest to develop the Srinagar Jammu Highway within a shortest stipulated time.
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