CPEC Expansion to Afghanistan

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    In News

    • Recently, Pakistan has discussed Taliban-led Afghanistan joining the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project.

    About the issue

    • China has proposed the construction of the Peshawar-Kabul motorway as an extension of CPEC in Afghanistan.
    • Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and China emerging as a major challenge in the form of the extension of its ambitious CPEC has raised India’s concerns on economic, political and security fronts.

    China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

    • It is a part of China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative to link China with Europe.
    • Started in 2013, the CPEC is a developmental project between Pakistan and its all-weather friend China.
    • CPEC is a 46 billion dollar project connecting Kashgar in Xinjiang province of China, with Gwadar port in Balochistan which is the largest province in Pakistan.
    • It is connected through a vast and complex network of roads as well as other infrastructure projects such as dams, hydropower projects, railways, and pipelines.
    • Pakistan’s interest in CPEC:
    • The Chinese investments are supposed to boost Pakistan’s 274 billion dollar GDP by over 15 per cent.
    • Energy needs of Pakistan: The large scale energy production has been termed as the biggest breakthrough of the project. Hydropower projects in this initiative can double Pakistan’s energy capacity.
    • Infrastructure development & Employment Opportunities: 
    • China’s interest in CPEC:
      • Access to the Middle East and Europe: By shortening its route by about 12,000 km which is critical for energy imports.
      • Gwadar Port provides a link between Maritime Silk Road and the Arabian Sea.
      • Gwadar will have the estimated capacity to handle 19 million tonnes of crude oil per year, which will be sent to China after being refined at the port.
        • At present, China transports 80% of its oil through the Strait of Malacca.
      • China also has huge strategic and geopolitical advantages in the Indian Ocean region.

     Image Courtesy: Tribune

    India’s Concerns on Afghanistan joining CPEC

    • Chabahar Port: The primary concern with Afghanistan joining CPEC is that India is apprehensive of its investment in Chabahar port in Iran.
    • China’s influence:
      • In Afghanistan, China is trying to fill the vacuum created after the US forces left Afghanistan economically and get its Belt and Road (BRI) initiatives going.
      • With the Extension of CPEC, China will play a leading role in Afghanistan overpowering India’s economic influence in Afghanistan.
      • India is apprehensive of undermining the India–Iran–Afghanistan trilateral that gives Afghanistan access to the sea via Chabahar port.
    • Weakening of India’s Economic Influence: Attempts to extend CPEC to Afghanistan may undermine India’s position as an economic, security and strategic partner of Afghanistan.
    • US$2 billion at stake: India has been the biggest regional donor to Afghanistan investing more than US$2 billion for developmental work like construction of roads, power plants, dams, parliament building, rural development, education, infrastructure and much more.
    • Rare-earth metals: which are key components for a variety of advanced electronic technologies and hi-tech missile guidance systems will be exploited

                by China with the extension of CPEC.

    • Terrorism and Strategic Concerns: Given India’s limited strategic depth in Afghanistan, China is in a better position to leverage its strategic advantages in Afghanistan.
      • It will also help Pakistan gain the strategic advantage and upper hand in Afghanistan at the cost of India.
      • Pakistan can facilitate the use of terrorism against India.
    • Control of Strategic Air Base and ports:
      • China may try to take over the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan.
      • The Bagram airport is the biggest airport and technically well-equipped as the Americans kept it for their use till the end, instead of the Kabul airport.
      • China has a history of building military bases on the ports and air bases acquired on foreign lands in lieu of loans provided.

    Way Forward & Conclusion

    • Improved infrastructure and security situation in Afghanistan may help India to conduct its economic and trade activities in a secured environment.
      • But, to achieve that, it is necessary to make the region terrorism free.
    • It will be a big strategic gain for China and Pakistan and a loss for India if Afghanistan joins the CPEC. 
    • It can also result in a boost to terrorist organizations and provide a safe haven to such organisations.

    Source: TH