Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
According to Pakistani media, Amir Riaz, the Pakistan Army's Southern Command chief, on Wednesday invited India to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and "share the fruits of future development by shelving anti-Pakistan activities and subversion." Amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, Riaz's remarks have drawn wide attention from the Indian media.
Riaz's invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India's intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India's participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.
India's attitude over the CPEC is clear-cut: It opposes the project. The CPEC runs through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir which is also claimed by India as its territory. It is almost suicidal for Indian politicians to make concessions over the issue. However, this is only an excuse. The fundamental reason why India is against the project is that it fears China could get access to the gate of the Indian Ocean through the corridor and Pakistan's strenght will be enhanced.
Pakistanis by and large don't want India to be part of the CPEC, or they believe, if India hopes to join, it must try to improve bilateral ties first. China believes that India should be part of the project and actively persuade Pakistan to accept it.
Since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably. However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective. On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road.
To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favorable profile. On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, we can find Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace. The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it's open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders. But if any country wants to label Pakistan as "supporting terrorism" and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behavior strongly.
In the process of building peaceful and stable domestic circumstances, governance capability is the key factor, China would like to share and discuss some experience and methods of running a country, including further cooperation on anti-terrorism, secessionism and extremism. The solution to these problems needs not only our cooperation on military and security issues, but also support for political and economic measures, and education to form identification with the nation. De-radicalism and modernization of religions is an important and urgent task for many countries in the world, including China and Pakistan.
Of course, there are opportunities before the CPEC, at least in two aspects: The first is that the Pakistani government and military have same goal. Both want to build up the CPEC and promote Pakistan's national power. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is especially eager to make some concrete achievements during his term. Thus, the period before 2018 is a strategic opportunity for CPEC construction. The Pakistani military has put a lot of effort into the CPEC, and its efforts are crucial to opening it to traffic. Now, Sharif's new appointment as army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has succeeded General Raheel Sharif smoothly. We hope this smooth transition in military leaders will promote further unity between the government and military, enhance the efficiency of CPEC construction, and speed up construction of the southern and northern branches of the Special Security Division for the CPEC.
Secondly, although some opposition forces in the region are ready to make some trouble, their executive capacity is not so effective, and the so-called hedging programs are being promoted very slowly.
The author is a senior fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. email@example.com