Integrated South Asia

In talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Chinese premier Xi Jinping has hoped that India and Pakistan will meet each other half-way and improve their relationship. Khan was in China as an attendee in the second Belt and Road Forum  which ended on April 27. More than $64billion worth deals were signed at the meeting as China sought to reassure critics the project to recreate the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe will deliver sustainable growth for all involved.China  hosted some 5,000 delegates from across the globe to discuss the trillion-dollar infrastructure project. However, India, once again, gave it a miss in protest against a part of the project running through Pakistan administered Kashmir which India claims as it’s own. However, China has been keen to bring India on board the project. And it knows one of the major factors that holds India back is its long-running confrontation with Pakistan and the dispute over Kashmir. 

The BRI has come a long way since it originated from two speeches by President Jinping in Kazakhstan in 2013 in which he outlined plans for China’s global outreach through connectivity and infrastructure development. The mega road and infrastructure initiative includes land corridors from China through Central Asia and Russia to Europe with spurs to West Asia and to Pakistan — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  The project is blend of economic, developmental, strategic and geopolitical motives, the most ambitious global infrastructure project ever envisaged by one country.

In Kashmir the project  has drawn a lot of attention for its potential to help in resolution of the dispute over the state between India and Pakistan. Kashmir observers have predicted that the CPEC will have very consequential impact on the overall framework of India-Pakistan relations, and China’s role in these disputes and equities that it has in these disputes.  The project, as it progresses is expected to  introduce new geo-political factors which  in the near or long term will force the resolution of Kashmir. 

Already,  the new factors  being unleashed by the project are straining existing geo-politics of the region. However, for now, we are only witnessing the beginnings of this global scale project. And we can only hope that in the long term it leads to an integrated South Asia which in turn helps create conditions for a permanent resolution of Kashmir. Xi’s call for an improvement in the India-Pakistan relations are at the BRI Forum is a recognition of the criticality of an Indo-Pak reconciliation and resolution of Kashmir. Here’s hoping that post-polls India and Pakistan do go back to dialogue and engagement and, for once, try to seriously sort out their longstanding issues. 

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