Opinion

View from Kashmir Observer: Curiosity is rising in Kashmir over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The view is that the project will give rise to new geopolitical factors that will force a resolution of the Kashmir conflict.

Leaders of 29 countries attended the high-profile Belt and Road Forum in Beijing over Sunday and Monday even as India boycotted it over its objections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a $54-billion infrastructure project connecting Gwadar in Pakistan to Kashgar in Xinjiang – that passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, which India considers its territory.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Gopal Bagalay, said “no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Though China has invited India to be a part of its Belt and Road Initiative – which would give the world the largest ever platform for economic, social and cultural cooperation across all of Eurasia – New Delhi wants such participation on its own terms. However, both China and Pakistan continue to seek India’s entry. Speaking at the Belt and Road Forum, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor should not be politicised while Chinese President Xi Jinping said “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The Belt and Road Initiative has come a long way since it originated from two speeches made by Xi in Central Asia in 2013 in which he outlined plans for China’s global outreach through connectivity and infrastructure development. The mega road, maritime and infrastructure initiative includes land corridors from China through Central Asia and Russia to Europe with spurs to West Asia and to Pakistan – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The project is a blend of economic, developmental, strategic and geopolitical motives, the most ambitious global infrastructure project ever envisaged by one country.

Valley interest

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has drawn a lot of attention in the Valley too, for its potential to help in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In March, a seminar titled “Impact of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Kashmir” was organised in Srinagar by The Kashmir Institute, a think tank. Andrew Small, the author of The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, addressed the gathering via Skype. Small predicted that the corridor would have a very consequential impact on the overall framework of India-Pakistan relations, and China’s role and equity in these disputes.

The seminar was the first such attempt in Kashmir to get Kashmiris thinking about the potential impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the state and the lingering conflict over it. The growing public interest in the Valley in this project is the result of a collective expectation that it will introduce new geopolitical factors

That in the short or long-term will force a resolution of Kashmir.

Already, new factors unleashed by the project are straining the existing geopolitics of the region. Islamabad is considering granting statehood to Gilgit-Baltistan following China’s alleged insistence on legal cover for its investment in the disputed region, a part of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by India as part of its territory. New Delhi has already objected to foreign investment in Gilgit-Baltistan, the entry point for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has further complicated the situation for Beijing.

Islamabad’s statehood move faces opposition not only from New Delhi but from Kashmiri separatists too. After New Delhi termed Pakistan’s attempt to declare Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province “entirely unacceptable”, a Hurriyat statement used more or less the same words to caution Islamabad against any such move.

However, for now, we are only witnessing the beginnings of this global project. And we can only hope that in the long term, it leads to an integrated South Asia that in turn helps create conditions for a permanent resolution of Kashmir.

This article first appeared on Kashmir Observer.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.