WASHINGTON — Border security and possible insurgencies remain as concerns in the planned China Pakistan Economic Corridor that would make trade easier between the two countries, the head of a major Pakistan security firm said Wednesday.
The project, funded by a $46 billion investment by China in Pakistan’s infrastructure, aims to connect China’s Xinjiang province to Gwadar Port in Balochistan, Pakistan to improve the efficiency of trade between the countries as well as between China and the Middle East. However, due to Balochistan’s past as a hotspot for insurgency, security is a concern.
Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal, chairman at Pathfinder Group Pakistan, said at a Heritage Foundation event that Balochistan’s security situation has improved in the last two years. For instance, the Pakistani military has units dedicated to the project, he said
But “there is no doubt there are a lot of question marks,” Sehgal told the audience at the conservative think tank.
Sehgal said revitalizing the Pakistani economy will improve the livelihoods of it citizens. With better jobs and a healthier economy, “these incidents will still happen, but they will be far and few in between,” he said.
Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation, said the low-level insurgency in the area will be an issue for the immediate future, but the CPEC plan “ is already providing boosted business confidence inside Pakistan.”
Andrew Small, a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, a think tank on policy for transatlantic cooperation, said China wants the project to bring regional stability. “A precondition of the success of CPEC is some degree of regional peace,” he said.
However, the speakers said India is still strongly against the project. Curtis suggested that the U.S. should end its skepticism about the project and help contribute to regional economic integration.
“Some see CPEC and China’s desire to move forward with that as sort of a direct response to the U.S. Asia pivot,” Curtis said.
Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center, said that the project is of U.S. interest.
“The U.S. shouldn’t want to stop it,” he said, “because it involves the economic development of Pakistan, which is in everyone’s interest.”