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Saturday June 15, 2024

Pakistan understands security key to success of CPEC

It is a good omen Pakistani leadership is putting serious effort into accelerating cooperation and work under the CPEC

By Shakeel Ahmad Ramay
May 27, 2024
This photo taken on December 4, 2023, shows a view of the Gwadar port in Gwadar. — Xinhua
This photo taken on December 4, 2023, shows a view of the Gwadar port in Gwadar. — Xinhua

Pakistani leadership is on a streak of trips to China. First, the Planning Minister spent a few days in China. He engaged with relevant ministers and the leadership of CPEC. He was followed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. He discussed options to accelerate implementation of second phase of CPEC and security cooperation.

The Prime Minister is likely to visit China during the first week of June. Both sides are expected to finalise framework of cooperation and expedite implementation of second phase of CPEC.

It is a good omen Pakistani leadership is putting serious effort into accelerating cooperation and work under the CPEC.

Pakistan is mindful it would be difficult to exploit full potential of second phase of CPEC without addressing security concerns. Thus, Pakistan is taking series actions on the security front to make the visit fruitful. It is needed because opponents of CPEC and China-Pakistan relationship have accelerated their efforts.

They have forged alliances with terrorist organisations to sabotage CPEC and Chinese investment in Pakistan. They are attacking Chinese with the financial and technical support of opponents of CPEC like India and others. The security arrangements for second phase of CPEC also do not match the needs of second phase.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan needs a two-pronged policy and action framework to eliminate threats and satisfy the security needs of all stakeholders.

First, Pakistan will have to find a way to check foreign interference and snub the supporters of terrorists. More precisely, Pakistan will have to expose the supporters of terrorists and break their alliance with terrorist organisations. It will be a complex task because the opponents are equipped with modern tools and have abundant resources at their disposal to sabotage CPEC. Moreover, they work sophisticatedly and have deployed all tools of fifth-generation warfare.

They start by constructing and paddling anti-China and anti-CPEC narratives like debt trap, hegemony, Xinjiang, etc., through the so-called independent think tanks and consultancy outlets. Second, they deploy media outlets to spread anti-CPEC and anti-China narratives.

Third, they train local people to use social media disguised as media training, journalism for livelihood, entrepreneurial journalism, etc. Later on, these trained resources are bombarded with fake news, lies and propaganda material. In this way, these people are used to spread lies and anti-CPEC and anti-China narratives.

Fourth, after creating favourable circumstances, they deploy terrorist organisations to attack the CPEC sites and Chinese nationals and dub it as anger of local people. The task is huge and involves foreign culprits. Hence, it will be extremely challenging for Pakistan to handle it alone. Pakistan and China must join hands to design and erect security framework for the second phase of CPEC and future cooperation.

This is required because global players are deeply involved in anti-CPEC and anti-China-Pakistan activities. They are trying to make Pakistan an example for not complying with their agenda by destabilising the country. They feel Pakistan is only the stumbling block to creating a web of chaos in the surroundings of China. For example, in Eurasia, they are fanning Russia-Ukraine conflict, and are putting all their resources into agitating China over Taiwan.

Pakistan is undoubtedly doing its best to combat the challenge, but matching them in terms of resources is Herculean task. Thus, it should establish cooperation mechanisms at two levels. Intelligence agencies from both countries should build joint operational systems to gather information, devise countermeasures, and deploy joint operations to combat or eliminate the risk.

There is a strong need to pool resources to fight back fifth-generation warfare, especially propaganda. It is common knowledge social media has enhanced the influence of propaganda. It is used to spread lies and create a wedge among the people of a country and between the countries. For example, the opponents of CPEC and Pakistan-China relationship use baseless propaganda of Xinjiang. They use the name of Xinjinag to influence terrorist groups and ask them to join them to hurt Chinese interests and its nationals.

Pakistan will have to reassess the ground-level security apparatus, as it was erected by considering the needs of the first phase of CPEC. This helped Pakistan minimise security threats and protect Chinese nationals. However, the dynamics of the second phase are entirely different. The projects and personnel will be spread throughout the country, and Pakistan cannot afford to depute the army on such a big scale.

The opponents have also accelerated their efforts to sabotage CPEC and China-Pakistan relations. On the other hand, the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the withdrawal of US and Nato forces from Afghanistan have further complicated the situation. Therefore, there is a need for a new security framework.

The process should start with the mapping exercise. Map the security requirements of the second phase. Map the security stakeholders. Pakistan should comprehensively map opponents, enemies and fake friends. There should be no ifs and buts—Pakistan should clearly draw a line between its friends and enemies, opponents and fake friends of Islamabad, CPEC, and its relations with China. After completing the mapping, Pakistan should define the roles of different institutions.

For the second phase, the police can be an ideal candidate to take the lead as they have experience working in the civil community, have deep roots in society, and understand the situation well. Police also maintain profiles of suspicious people.

Thus, the police should be the leading force on the ground and supported by the armed forces. Military intelligence agencies should work with civilian intelligence agencies to devise a comprehensive system to detect threats and take timely actions. The army should be deputed to protect important installments, big personalities and important sites. For all hard actions, the army should take the lead.

In conclusion, Pakistan understands security holds the master key to unlocking the full potential of CPEC. Investment cannot be attracted without erecting foolproof security mechanisms and ensuring personnel security.

Since President Xi Jinping assumed leadership, the security vision, policy and sphere of security influence have continuously evolved. China equates the security of each individual to security of whole nation. This is China’s new red line, and it does not compromise on it.

Understanding the new vision will help Pakistan address China’s security concerns and exploit the full potential of CPEC.