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» Patch of rough weather in all weather friendship
প্রকাশিত: ১৯. সেপ্টেম্বর. ২০২০ | শনিবার
Chinese President Xi Jinping has abruptly cancelled his visit to Pakistan which was expected this year citing prevailing situation of COVID-19. This followed news of involvement of Lt Gen (retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa, in charge of CPEC projects in Pakistan, in a corruption scandal. Bajwa is accused of not disclosing massive business empires linked to his wife and sons. He was also a top aide to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and close to the army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
CPEC is at the core of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, in a verbal reply to a congratulatory letter sent by the Pakistani President to the opening of the Second Conference of the CPEC Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism on August 21st, Xi reiterated the importance of CPEC in promoting China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.
However, since the start of the multi-billion dollar CPEC in 2015, Pakistani army has eyed its share of pie, and pushed for CPEC authority bill 2020, to formally take over the corridor. This fulfilled the long Chinese desire to directly deal with the Pakistani army in the decision making process around CPEC projects. The purpose of Chinese leadership and Pakistani army are not different. They both want to put aside democratic frameworks and exploit Pakistani resources to develop their empires.
The incident involving top military commander from Pakistan in corruption related to flagship project under BRI, came as major embarrassment for Beijing and especially Xi. CPEC has increasingly becoming an instrument of corruption for top army and political leaders in Pakistan. Xi Jinping, who purged his own domestic political opponents in the name of anti-corruption drive, would certainly not be pleased with corruption cases related to CPEC’s operations in Pakistan.
The controversy around corruption charges related to top military leadership would have shaken confidence of Chinese authorities towards military elite of Pakistan. The two sides need to offset the challenges faced by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which are of particular concern for the Chinese, these challenges mainly relate to investment risks, political risks and security risks.
Despite the best efforts by China and Pakistan, the challenges remain in sustaining CPEC projects. There is a growing discomfort among the local population in regions at the heart of CPEC projects.
Recently there were reports criticizing alteration of demography and ecological structure related to construction of two mega dams on Neelam and Jhelum rivers in PoK, including a protest in Muzaffarabad. There were reports of altercations between Chinese labourers and Pakistani guards in Bahawalpur district in July, and now there are reports that fishermen in Pakistan will protest the arrival of 20 Chinese deep-sea trawlers that will fish in the exclusive economic zone off Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, which the local fishermen say will deplete local fishing resources and lead to loss of income for local fishermen.
The increasing cases of protests, corruption and conflict involving Chinese projects and personnel in Pakistan, does not provide ideal atmosphere for Chinese leadership. Xi’s flight to mark his first overseas visit to his all weather friend seems to have hit a rough weather. China, which first locked itself in controversies surrounding it’s mishandling of COVID, subsequently involved itself in conflicts with its neighbours, is feeling uncomfortable even in dealing with its own friends.