New Delhi: The Pakistani military is in the process of raising a division headquarters of the 44 Light Infantry in Balochistan’s Gwadar to better co-ordinate security initiatives and protect Beijing’s $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The Chinese have expressed concerns over the security for CPEC — a network of roads, railways, and pipelines in Pakistan — as Baloch activists oppose the project that runs through the disputed territory of Pakistan.
According to sources in the Indian defence and security establishment, the move to create the new division headquarters was taken after China ramped up the pressure on Pakistan to ensure proper security to the project and the thousands of Chinese workers in the area.
“The new headquarters is to ensure smooth security measures and proper coordination,” a source said. “Pakistan knows that any attack on Chinese investments will have serious ramifications for the country, especially the military that benefits the most out of this project.”
There has been allegations of largescale corruption in the project and it is believed that companies being fronted by the Pakistani military leaders are benefiting the most out of this.
The CPEC project has been objected to by India as it passed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Addressing a press conference on 10 September, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, “India has consistently expressed concerns to both China and Pakistan on the projects in so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is on the territory of India that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.”
Chinese concerns rise after series of attacks
The Chinese security concerns were heightened after gunmen stormed a five-star hotel in Gwadar in early May. The target were the Chinese staying at the hotel.
In April this year, there was an attack on a bus travelling from Gwadar that killed 14, including Pakistani military personnel. The issue was not reported in detail by the Pakistani media but Baloch activists had claimed that 14 Pakistani soldiers were pulled out and killed execution style.
The Baloch Liberation Army, which has warned against more violence against Chinese interests, has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Pakistan had in 2016 created a Special Security Division (SSD) for the security of CPEC. Then then Army chief Gen Raheel Shareef had said the Army will pay “any price” for the security of CPEC — a key element of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative across Asia, Africa, and Europe.
In May, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan travelled to Pakistan and sought a security guarantee from both the military and Prime Minister Imran Khan. Had urged them to bolster security for Beijing’s major development drive in the country, including the strategic deep-sea port at Gwadar.
The issue of security also came up for discussion during Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat’s visit to China.