The China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) — flagship project under the mega One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative — is not merely a corridor that Pakistan is hoping will transform its economy but rather a project that may wreck its finances and societal structure.
A 15-year master plan of CPEC that has come to light reveals that Pakistan will be fully subjugated by China under the current terms and conditions of the project.
The master plan, a copy of which is seen by ET, envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. The plan spells out in detail what Chinese intentions and priorities are in Pakistan for the next 15 years. It may be recalled that China has decided to invest $62 billion for the CPEC project.
Under the plan, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased out to Chinese enterprises in Pakistan to set up “demonstration projects” in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology.
A system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi with 24-hour video recording on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.
Besides, as the per master plan, a national fibre-optic backbone will be built for Pakistan not only for internet traffic, but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”. A similar Sinification is visible in the Mandalay town of Myanmar which has impacted local architecture and culture. It remains to be seen how a conservative section of the Pakistani society reacts to the influence of Chinese culture.
In some areas, the plan is to build on a market presence already established by Chinese enterprises — for instance, Haier in household appliances, China Mobile and Huawei in telecommunications, and China Metallurgical Group Corporation in mining and minerals.
A key thrust of the plan lies in agriculture. Pakistan will also become a market for agricultural produce from Western China and this will adversely impact local producers, alleged Pakistani civil society activists. From provision of seeds and other inputs, such as fertiliser, credit and pesticides, Chinese enterprises will also operate their own farms, processing facilities for fruits and vegetables and grain. Logistics companies will operate a large storage and transportation system for agrarian produce, as per the CPEC master plan. Chinese enterprises will take the lead in each field.
Experts on Chinese economy claim that Beijing’s goal through CPEC is to improve the agriculture sector of certain western provinces. The plan proposes to harness the work of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps to bring mechanization as well as scientific technique in livestock breeding, development of hybrid varieties and precision irrigation to Pakistan. It sees its main opportunity as helping the Kashgar Prefecture, a territory within the larger Xinjiang Autonomous Zone, which is poverty ridden.
FIBRE OPTIC WORRIES
One of the oldest priorities for the Chinese government since talks on CPEC began is fibre optic connectivity between China and Pakistan. An MoU for such a link was signed in July 2013 which may impact India’s security. “Moreover, China’s telecom services to Africa need to be transferred in Europe, so there’s a certain hidden danger of the overall security,” says the plan.
The plan also envisages a terrestrial cable across the Khunjerab pass to Islamabad, and a submarine landing station of cable in Gwadar. Gwadar, as per the plan, “is positioned as the direct hinterland connecting Balochistan and Afghanistan”.
The expanded bandwidth will enable terrestrial broadcast of digital HD television, called Digital Television Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB). This is envisioned as more than just a technological contribution. According to the master plan, “It is a cultural transmission carrier. The future cooperation between Chinese and Pakistani media will be beneficial to disseminating Chinese culture in Pakistan, further enhancing mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”
“There is a plan to build a pilot safe city in Peshawar, which faces a fairly severe security situation in northwestern Pakistan,” the plan says, following which the initiative will be extended to major cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. This may see deployment of Chinese forces in Pakistan with a direct bearing on Indian security.
Importantly, Pakistan’s federal and involved local governments should also bear part of the responsibility for financing through issuing sovereign guarantee, according to the plan.
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