It appears as though China has hit one of the many bumps in the silk road. Laborers working in Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan are being gunned down by militants.
On Friday, three Pakistani workers were killed while making a trip to buy daily supplies in Hoshab, a small town about 175 miles from the construction site in Gwadar.
“Gwadar’s deep-water port is the exit point for a planned route from China’s far western region of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea and is expected to start functioning by June 2018, an adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Reuters this month,” writes Reuters. “Pakistan expects up to 4 percent of global trade to pass through it by 2020, he added.”
A few days prior, the separatist Baluch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for killing ten laborers also working on the project.
According to the Financial Times, China has been secretly engaging in talks with Pakistani tribal separatists for the last five years in anticipation of this issue.
The communist country usually doesn’t get involved in domestic politics of other countries, but China is especially invested in protecting the $60 billion project in Gwadar port, along with the others on the Silk Road route in Pakistan.
“The Chinese have quietly made a lot of progress,” said one Pakistani official. “Even though separatists occasionally try to carry out the odd attack, they are not making a forceful push.”
“The Belt and Road Initiative is portrayed as an economic project . . . but, increasingly, it has significant local political and strategic dimensions Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, International Institute for Strategic Studies Chinese peacekeepers are already in South Sudan, where Beijing has invested in oilfields and is planning to build a rail line,” writes Financial Times. “China has also contributed troops to a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali and even talked about launching attacks against Isis in Iraq, where it has been the largest foreign investor in the country’s oil sector. Pakistan, which is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the infrastructure initiative, is one of the riskiest parts of the world in which to do business.”
China understands that a safer Pakistan means the quicker and less dangerous the silk road projects will be. But, will the country handle it the right way? Or will they just pay the militants off.
Pakistan will be adding a 2,6000 km long fence at its Afghanistan border, which will be policed by the helicopters and surveillance drones the country is planning on buying from the Chinese.
Even with the recent attacks, militants have been apparently practicing restraint and are reframing from violence.
“Today, young men are not getting attracted to join the insurgents as they did some 10 years ago,” said one provincial tribal leader to Financial Times. “Many people see prosperity.”
That means there has to be incentives given.
“China will have to take the interest of local communities into account. Supporting an economic agenda that enhances prosperity for Central Asian nationals would ultimately reduce the risk of extremism in the region. China will have to combine infrastructure initiatives with projects aimed at increasing ordinary people participation in trade. In economic terms, this means to pursue investments that benefit local growth, for example through financing small businesses,” writes Global Risk Insights.
China will have to boost counter-terrorism operations in the area too.
Author’s note: The “Silk Road” goes through a lot of areas of instability. Evidently, China is attempting an “appeasement” with Pakistan militants. This will not likely work and instead, could be the downfall of the project or at least make it much more expensive. But, China has proven that it’s willing to do whatever it takes to get this Silk Road built. If China manages to buy off the regional militants, even if it is temporarily, it could still be polarizing in the region– all for China’s selfish gain.