By Shahbaz Rana
GILGIT: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) was a manifestation of growing Indian frustration over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Chinese strategic initiative that has isolated India in the region, Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Hafeezur Rehman said on Wednesday.
“India feels isolated in the region after CPEC was launched as part of greater One Belt One Road (OBOR) to link 3 billion people of South Asia, Central Asia and China,” he said while speaking at a seminar about the multibillion-dollar economic project which was organised by the special region’s government to give unequivocal response to Indian hegemonic designs.
The chief minister went on to say that the Indian prime minister was feeling the pressure after committing atrocities in Indian-occupied Kashmir and successful execution of CPEC. He said Modi’s recent statements on GB status were a manifestation of frustration over CPEC.
Two weeks ago, PM Modi said that India would negotiate with Pakistan over the issue of vacation of GB and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, triggering backlash from across Pakistan. The Bangladesh’s government and ex-Afghanistan president also backed the Indian premier’s statement, raising concerns in Pakistan about a greater conspiracy.
CM Rehman said that people of GB will defeat all bids against CPEC, adding that the country’s intelligence agencies are also “alert and alive”.
CPEC has provided second opportunity to change the destination of GB people after construction of Karakoram Highway in 1970s. “The GB people support CPEC, although location of projects could be further discussed.”
Speaking at the seminar, Ahsan Iqbal, federal planning minister who was chief guest of the ceremony, said that India cannot sabotage CPEC as all federating units and special regions were standing behind the grand project.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Asad Umar, who was also present on the occasion, said that there is unanimous national political support for the economic corridor.
While highlighting evolving geo-strategic environment and its implications for the important economic corridor, ex-minister of state for finance Omar Ayub Khan said that the Indian prime minister’s malicious talk on GB was designed to damage the Pakistan’s economic well-being and to weaken its defence mechanism.
He went on to say that CPEC operations would reduce Chinese reliance on sea lines passing through Straits of Malacca. About 80 per cent Chinese oil imports coming through Malacca straits in South China Sea and the United States has the capacity to block the strait in times of conflicts, Khan added. “Its strategic imperative for China to fast track work on CPEC.”
He has also offered a piece of advice to the government to develop GB industry on modern lines aimed at bringing changes in lives of the local population.