Mushahid Hussain Syed talks over CPEC

Increasing his efforts in dispelling Indian concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is the Chairman of Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, has responded to questions shared for an email interview by Economic Times. The Senator comments on Pakistan’s motivation for CPEC as entirely based on socioeconomic benefits, which is open for all states to cooperate on and share. He says that Pakistan and China have collectively welcomed India, and other states, to cooperate on CPEC, and it would be in the larger interest of the region to do so. The interview further clarifies that CPEC, or OBOR, are development agendas laid out by mutual consultation, and are not set to subjugate states to Chinese control, instead for mutually benefiting from China’s peaceful rise.

When Pakistan was a member of US-backed military pacts and gave bases to the Americans during the Cold War, we took decisions independently as any sovereign country should, says Mushahid Husain.China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Pakistan rejects India’s assertion that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor violates India’s sovereignty since the project runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, said Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan’s parliamentary committee on CPECBSE -4.45 %. In an email interview to Economic Times , chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Defence Committee, said he hoped that the project would prove to be a positive influence on bilateral political relations. He assured that there are no Chinese military personnel in Pakistan, and neither will there be an in the future.

How will the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor impact Pakistan’s relations with India?
Hopefully, CPEC should be a positive influence on politics between Pakistan and India because it is all about connectivity between countries in the region. If India can be part of SAARC or the TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India) pipeline, supporting CPEC would provide continuity in regional cooperation and connectivity. CPEC has immeasurably enhanced Pakistan’s leverage and clout in the region.

Do you see any possibility of India participating in CPEC?
India seems unlikely to participate in CPEC for two reasons. First, India sees China as a potential competitor and feels upstaged by this mega initiative of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ of President Xi Jinping, of which CPEC is the flagship pilot project. Second, India, under Prime Minister Modi, is still confused over what kind of Pakistan policy it should pursue.

Many people have expressed concern that CPEC will give China de facto control over Pakistan…
Two facts are noteworthy. When Pakistan was a member of US-backed military pacts and gave bases to the Americans during the Cold War, we took decisions independently as any sovereign country should. When the US tilted towards India in 1962, Pakistan dared to earn the ire of the mighty US by befriending the worst enemy (China) of our erstwhile ally then. Second, China is probably the only country in history which is making a transition from a regional power to a great power without resorting to force, military aggression or occupation of outside territory.

There are no Chinese military personnel in Pakistan for any purpose, CPEC or non CPEC! And neither will there be any in the future.

How is Pakistan negotiating its partnership with Afghanistan and Iran in CPEC considering their close ties with India?

We have encouraged them to join CPEC as they are close to China too. Recently, Iran participated in the first international CPEC conference in Gwadar in December 2016, and we feel Chah Bahar & Gwadar can have a lot of complementarity. Our Main Line 1 railway upgradation project, under CPEC, will run from Karachi to Torkham, and hopefully, extend into Afghanistan.

Recently Chinese media compared Kashmir under Pakistan with Taiwan. Do you agree with this comparison?
The Chinese media is correct in this comparison on two counts. First, both Taiwan and Kashmir are unresolved issues left over from history, whose respective resolution (Taiwan’s return to China like Hong Kong and Macao, and Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination under UN resolutions) would immeasurably contribute to regional peace, security and stability. Second, notwithstanding the failure to resolve Taiwan and Kashmir, this should not be an impediment to regional economic cooperation and connectivity. Regarding Kashmir being part of CPEC, it is important for Occupied Kashmir to be part of this emerging regional trend of corridors, culture and connectivity, to which it naturally belongs and longs to be part of, just as Azad Kashmir already is.

Do you think resolution of Kashmir issue and CPEC will remain exclusive to each other?
CPEC would help lessen political tensions by bringing about economic cooperation, providing for a conducive political and economic context to the resolution of Kashmir, since this will open up opportunities for one fifth of humanity that resides in South Asia to blossom with their latent creativity unleashed.

Is China’s OBOR initiative involving more than 60 countries defining the new world order. Is Pakistan on the right side of history now?
Yes, Pakistan is very much on the right side of history as the balance of economic and political power is shifting from the West to the East, the West is in decline, the 21st Century is the ‘Asian Century’ marked by the resurgence of Asia with fuelled by the rise of China, which is Pakistan’s best friend. Till 2050, at least, the One Belt, One Road initiative will be decisive in determining the global balance of economic and political power, and the kind of World Order that is now emerging: globalization driven by multilateralism in a multipolar world. It is India, which may be left out in the cold. Pakistan, given its location and role, is pivotal in this emerging geopolitical scenario.

J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has suggested opening of old silk route from Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to central Asia. Do you see this as a reaction to CPEC or both the projects can converge at some point in time?
Ms Mufti’s proposal is inspired by CPEC as Kashmir was key to connectivity amongst cultures and countries in the past. The landmark Yashwant Sinha report on Kashmir of January 2017 also says that most of the Kashmiri people want to be part of CPEC.

Keeping in view the sensitivities of India-Pakistan relations, how do you suggest the meetings between India, Pakistan and China can happen?
Mutual interests would drive such discussions. If Pakistan, India and the US can meet, why not the three neighbors?

Has there been any bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan over CPEC?
MH: Not yet!

How is Pakistan taking care of environmental costs of the CPEC projects?
Our relevant departments are engaged in planning on this count and last year, we also signed an MOU with the IUCN precisely on this.

Do you think Dubai ports and subsequent trade would be affected due to the development of CPEC and that is why India is getting closer to UAE?
India is getting closer to UAE in a bid to ‘isolate and contain Pakistan’, given the obsession of Pakistan in the Indian security establishment, which is mortally scared of CPEC since it means the Pakistan-China bond is stronger and deeper than before. There is so much trade in the region that Dubai port won’t be affected by the emergence of new ports like Gwadar or Chah Bahar or Hambantota or Chittagong.

Will CPEC help to boost the new cold war between US and Russia and thus re-structure the regional friendships as well?
The new Cold War between Moscow & Washington has nothing to do with CPEC, as it predates CPEC and it’s currently centred on Europe, with a focus on Ukraine and the NATO expansion in Eastern Europe, based on an obsession with Putin. However, after the Indo-American intimacy where India has allowed America access to land, sea and air bases, the Russians are warming up to Pakistan as a reaction, so regional relationships are being restructured.

Some experts in India have termed CPEC as ‘corridor of uncertainty’ while others says it is the ‘new Marshall Plan’. What does CPEC, entail for central and south Asian region in this context?
In the post 9/11 world, after failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama Administration came up with two flawed, still-born concepts: in July 2011, Hillary Clinton talked of a ‘new Silk Road’ while speaking in Chennai, and in November 2011, Obama talked of a ‘pivot to Asia’, code words for containment of China.

CPEC as the flagship of President Xi Jinping’s OBOR is a contrasting vision for Asia based on cooperation through regional connectivity that is beneficial for all, rather than confrontation based on military might or hegemony. In ‘The Atlantic’ issue of May 2009, Robert Kaplan had referred to Gwadar as the “Rotterdam of the Arabian Sea” and this seems to be turning into reality now. If CPEC is the flagship of OBOR, then Gwadar is definitely the centrepiece of CPEC.