A friend comes calling

>President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan needs to be seen as a game changer. With studied deliberation and precision, the Chinese have utilised the presidential visit to alter the facts on the ground. At the heart of Mr. Xi’s trip was the >formal inauguration of the >China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The ambitious project, with implications far beyond the economic, >would absorb investments up to $45 billion over the next 15 years. It would establish transportation and energy infrastructure and do the groundwork for a number of industrial parks and smart cities, fuelling Chinese hopes — if terrorism en route can be contained — of turning Pakistan into a new tiger economy in Asia. By committing to pour billions of dollars into infrastructure development over the years, China appears to have stolen a march over the U.S. and emerged as Pakistan’s unrivalled external partner. China’s golden run in Pakistan implies a significant mutation of the regional balance of power in South Asia and Afghanistan. Through the >corridor from Kashgar, in China’s restive Xinjiang province, to Gwadar, Beijing will find a point of access in the Indian Ocean at the virtual tri-junction of South Asia, West Asia and Africa.

The development of the CPEC is not necessarily >bad for India or the region. On the contrary, Pakistan’s young people who find meaningful work in the projects are unlikely to enter the jihad factories. India should also welcome the impending joint initiative by China and Pakistan to curtail terror groups along the corridor and in Afghanistan, provided the two countries are able to steer clear of an exclusionary agenda, limiting India’s legitimate interests in Kabul. In any case, it is imperative that Afghanistan is revisited in the New Delhi-Beijing strategic dialogue following President Xi’s visit. So should be the proposed export of eight Chinese submarines to Pakistan. Indian security planners may not be unduly perturbed by the sale, but any attempt by Pakistan to convert the submarines — that can be done only with Chinese help — as platforms for a nuclear second-strike capability must be recorded as a red line. President Xi’s visit signals the emergence of new geopolitical realities, calling for India adjusting itself to an emerging multipolar world. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to China next month, he thus faces a rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape in South Asia and Afghanistan. India has not done too badly in partnering China in the evolving global financial architecture, underscored by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS-led New Development Bank, and the pursuit of membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. India’s interests may be well-served if it dons the role of a cooperative balancing force by pursuing independent engagement with the U.S., Japan and ASEAN, even as it deepens ties with Beijing, based on maturity, realism and mutual benefit.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 8:04:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-friend-comes-calling/article7130911.ece

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