On Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in a strongly worded statement, opposed the prospective involvement of third nations in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
It has asserted that such activities are “inherently illegal”, and would directly infringe on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This comes amid reports of Pakistan and China encouraging other countries to join the multi-billion dollar project, part of which is going to involve construction of roadways across Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“We have seen reports on encouraging proposed participation of third countries in so-called CPEC projects. Any such actions by any party directly infringe on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. The statement was made following the meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group (JGW) on International Cooperation and Coordination, held on July 21.
Reportedly, during the meeting, Pakistan and China decided to welcome other nations to join the project, which they said could be part of mutually beneficial cooperation. In a statement released subsequent to the meeting, Islamabad also proposed Turkey’s participation in the project, while also discussing the expansion of the corridor to Afghanistan, although without going into details. They also agreed to deepen “media cooperation and do a good job in telling CPEC stories”.
On the other hand, Bagchi reiterated that New Delhi has “firmly and consistently” opposed CPEC projects which are in Indian territory that has been “illegally occupied by Pakistan”. He added, “Such activities are inherently illegal, illegitimate and unacceptable, and will be treated accordingly by India.” The diplomat also issued a reminder about the problems associated with CPEC to the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and similar potential third parties. Reportedly, soon after taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership had expressed interest in joining the multi-billion dollar project.
The CPEC was launched in 2013, in an effort to improve Pakistan’s infrastructure, including roads, rail, energy and transportation, in addition to connecting its deep-sea port of Gwadar with China’s Xinjiang province. The corridor is also a part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has been severely critical of the BRI since the beginning, as the CPEC is a part of the initiative.
Earlier this year, in May, current Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had proposed a trilateral CPEC agreement with China and Turkey. Pakistan has a deep military relationship with Turkey, based on the several orders the country has given for procuring naval systems, and upgrading aircraft and weapon systems. This comes amid concerns about Chinese activities in the PoK and Gilgit Baltistan, which have been under a more rigorous spotlight following the announcement of the 2023 G20 Summit, set to be hosted by India, in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.