A report by the United Nations has said the bilateral China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might create geo-political tension between India and Pakistan and ignite further political instability.
The report is produced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP) at the request of the Chinese government and aims to inform the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The report expresses concern over the Kashmir dispute since the CPEC crosses over the region and might escalate tension between India and Pakistan.
The political instability in Afghanistan could also limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active.
The social and environmental safeguards are also a concern. CPEC could lead to widespread displacement of local communities.
In Balochistan, there are concerns that migrants from other regions of Pakistan will render ethnic Baloch a minority in the province. In addition, the Hazara community is another minority concern.
Furthermore, concerns exist that CPEC will pass from the already narrow strip of cultivable land in the mountainous western Pakistan, destroying farmland and orchards.
The resulting resettlement would reduce local population into an “economically subservient minority.”
The report states that if the benefits of the proposed CPEC are reaped by large conglomerates, linked to Chinese interests, the identity and culture of the local population could be further marginalised.
The marginalisation of local population groups could re-ignite separatist movements and toughen military response from the government.
The concept of CPEC was first raised by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. The objective was to build an economic corridor running from Kashgar, Xinjiang to Gwadar.
Both governments have mapped out a provisional long-term plan for building highways, railways, oil and natural gas pipelines and fiber optic networks.
China will support development projects in Pakistan and much needed investment to address energy shortages and a stagnating economy.
CPEC could additionally serve as the driver for trade and economic integration between China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States.