Finally an opportunity for Pakistan to end its regional isolation.
Addressing an awards ceremony at the Balochistan Frontier Constabulary Headquarters in Quetta on Dec. 20, Commander Southern Command Lt. Gen. Amir Riaz sent a clear message to archenemy India: Join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and share the fruits of future development by shelving your anti-Pakistan activities and subversion.
The message resonates with the way China looks at the Belt and Road vision for the region. But as the general pointed out, India has to tone down its aggression on the Line of Control in Kashmir before it can become a part of the CPEC vision. However, Pakistan too has yet to act in accordance with the Chinese way of thinking. Islamabad has not given India the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status it pledged under the World Trade Organization (WTO), nor has it allowed an overland route for India’s trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, as required under the trade regionalism espoused by CPEC.
India reacts to CPEC negatively “because it passes through disputed territory” and thinks of Gwadar as a Chinese military outpost designed to hamper New Delhi’s interests. But it is also reacting to America’s so-called “pivot” to Asia, designed to thwart China’s growing power. Japan, bothered by its islands dispute with China, has moved closer to India, which in turn has reached out to Israel and imported military technology without offending the Arabs. India has been more flexible than Pakistan in its strategy and continues to work with China in the trade grouping BRICS and an international bank for infrastructure development.
An internally troubled Pakistan needs to change tack in line with global thinking and lessen its isolation in South Asia. It must follow the Chinese line on SAARC members India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and come out of its cocoon of reactive aggression. It can begin with CPEC.