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Sunday June 23, 2024

Gwadar attack, CPEC and big picture

It presumed the region would benefit from the dividend of peace

By Shakeel Ahmad Ramay
March 25, 2024
A Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship at the Gwadar port. — AFP/File
A Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship at the Gwadar port. — AFP/File

After the withdrawal of US and Allied Forces from Afghanistan, it was expected peace would have a chance. It was assumed they had learned peace has no alternative. War cannot serve humanity; it can only be a source of destruction.

Thus, the US and its allies will become partners in peace and sustainable development. It was presumed the region would benefit from the dividend of peace. Stability will open doors to economic opportunities and sustainable development.

Unfortunately, the expectations and sentiments could not last for long. Terrorist groups like ISIS started reemerging. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai was pointing towards the ISIS presence in Afghanistan for many years.

After the withdrawal, the ISIS and other terrorist groups started targeting countries—Pakistan was the first one. They attacked Pakistani forces, installations and innocent citizens. The analysis of terrorist attacks highlights terrorists have a special interest in the China-Pakistan relationship and the CPEC. They are continuously attacking CPEC-related projects and the employees working, especially in Balochistan.

The latest episode is the Gwadar attack. Terrorists tried to target Gwadar Port area — the most valuable project, jewel of CPEC and future hub of connectivity. Fortunately, Pakistani forces were vigilant and they killed all of them.

The initial assessment shows the attack has roots in foreign countries, and terrorists had the support of geopolitical players. The assessment can be supported by activities of terrorist groups in regional and extra-regional countries. For example, ISIS conducted a major terrorist attack in Russia. It attacked the innocent people that claimed many lives. Chinese initiatives, interests and investments are prime targets with the purpose of checking China’s peaceful rise. Therefore, they are targeting CPEC and Chinese citizens in Pakistan.

They perceive it is necessary to break China-Pakistan partnership so that it can flourish in the region and beyond. They assume if they are successful in damaging CPEC and creating differences between the two countries, they can easily target Chinese interest in other countries and create a web of chaos in China’s surroundings.

They have been working for many years to convince Pakistan to rethink its relationship with China. They launched warlord public diplomacy against Pakistan and the CPEC. They started numerous malicious campaigns, such as the debt trap etc. They are trying to blame CPEC for Pakistan’s current economic crisis.

They have deployed 5th generation warfare tools. They play with people’s emotions by manipulating facts. They are trying to create differences between the provinces and the people of Pakistan. Fourth, they are putting all efforts to undermine China-Pakistan relationship.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan has to redefine its security apparatus and devise a two-pronged security policy for national irritants and geopolitical players.

On the domestic front, Pakistan must understand the second phase of CPEC is different from the first one. It revolves around industrial and agricultural cooperation. The infrastructure and personnel attached to the industry and agriculture will be widespread, and hundreds and thousands of workers will be working in the industry and agriculture programmes. Pakistan will not be able to deploy security personnel with everyone.

There is a need to revise the security structure and divide it into two segments. First, the police should be the leading force on the ground and deal with people because they have the required expertise to interact with people. The Army should only be deployed to protect critical infrastructure like Gwadar Port.

Second, to counter FGW, Pakistan needs to apply the DIMEC (Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economy and Culture) framework. The core of FGW is that no single institution can ensure country’s development, security and peace. All the pillars of DIMEC must work hand in hand.

Concentrate on creation of a national narrative and avoid going for counter-narrative only. Draw specific programmes to protect people against emotional exploitation. Pakistan will have to erect institutions and mechanisms that can ensure equal job and economic opportunities, especially for common citizens, and elite capture must be avoided.

On the geopolitical front, Pakistan will have to devise a proficient, multidimensional and smart policy. It should conduct a security audit, specifically of CPEC. The audit should focus not only on Pakistan’s enemies but also its friends and competitors. It is common knowledge some of the friends of Pakistan are working with its enemies to maximise their economic interests. It is suggested the Army should take the lead, as ISI is well-trained, has resources, and most importantly, has the experience to protect the interests of Pakistan at the global level. The Foreign Office will have to fight the narrative war. All ministries and departments should support it, as narrative war is quite complex.

Simultaneously, China and Pakistan should join hands to devise and deploy the security policy according to new realities. The terrorists have a global agenda beyond Pakistan. Moscow terrorist attack is the most relevant example. Moreover, geopolitical players have also launched 5th generation warfare, trade war, tech war and sanctions against China. They are not only attacking CPEC but also Chinese investments in Africa and other parts of the world.

However, CPEC, being a flagship project and a symbol of China-Pakistan iron brotherhood, is the prime target. In addition, US and its allies have also deployed financial institutions like the IMF etc. to pressure Pakistan to compromise on CPEC and its relations with China. Thus, both the nations must join hands to counter threats and minimise the risks.

China and Pakistan can start the work by launching innovative programmes to counter 5th generation warfare and malicious propaganda. For example, at the 3rd BRI Forum, President Xi introduced his vision of small programmes. Under this initiative, both the countries can jointly launch a pilot project for local fishermen and other communities in Gwadar. It will revolutionise the economy of region and curb the propaganda against CPEC. Pakistan and China can also enhance cooperation under the Global Security Initiative (GSI).

The GSI has all the ingredients to ensure people’s security and prosperity, as it promotes partnership-building, coordinated policy and sustainable security for everyone. Moreover, through GSI, China and Pakistan can also engage with other friends and competitors to lower the risk. It will be a win-win formula for everyone.

In conclusion, the new government in Balochistan must be supported to tackle security, livelihood and development issues. Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti seems to have the vigor to deliver.