Behind China’s ‘Benevolence’

Pakistan has told China that it will build the proposed 14-billion dollar Diamer-Nhasa Dam (which is located in Pak-occupied Kashmir) on its own. It has declined China’s ‘offer’ of financing the project (which forms part of the ambitious $60-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor) because the Chinese companies which were to build the project had set very tough terms for advancing loans. This is nothing new. Chinese companies do business in a businesslike manner. They advance loans on very rigorous terms. Often the recipient nation is unable to repay the loan and has to sell the ownership of the project partly or fully to the Chinese. It has happened in the case of the Hambantota Port project in Sri Lanka. Pakistan Prime Minister Abbasi has said that his country will finance the project with its own money. This is the first time China has been rebuffed by its ‘all-weather’ friend Pakistan. Already, there is a growing fear in the minds of the people of Pakistan about China’s real intentions. Fears have been voiced that eventually Pakistan may end up being a Chinese colony.
India’s quiet but firm diplomacy has also played a role. Pakistan had earlier knocked at the door of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for getting financial assistance for the Diamer-Bhasa Dam, but the ADB declined to help because dam will have to be built on a ‘disputed’ territory. Farooq Abdullah may say that the PoK belongs not to India but to Pakistan, but international bodies know it very well that the PoK is a disputed territory. India’s sustained diplomatic offensive against Pakistan with regard to the status of the PoK has established that. The IBRD or the IMF may also take the same stand should Pakistan approach any of these bodies. Pakistan knows it well that the CPEC will pass through the PoK which India has all along claimed to be its integral part. In any India-China armed conflict in future, the CPEC may come under Indian attack and be cut off.
The geo-strategic scenario in the Indian Ocean region is also changing fast. The proposed India-Japan-US-Australia quadrilateral is the first step to neutralize China’s policy of encircling India by its ‘String of Pearls’ policy. Now China will find more and more of its neighbours eyeing it with fear and suspicion and seeking to be part of the security architecture which is taking shape now. The United States under Donald Trump may tighten the screw further on Pakistan and US assistance to Islamabad may dry up into a trickle. In such a situation, can China replace the US as a donor country, giving it the same financial and military assistiance? Pakistan may soon have to make a decisive choice.

Friday, 17 November, 2017