“No matter how hard they try to turn Gwadar into Dubai, it won’t work. There will be resistance. The pipelines going to China will not be safe. They will have to cross through Baluch territory, and if our rights are violated, nothing will be secure,” citing a Baloch activist, US scholar Robert Kaplan wrote an article in the influential The Atlantic. As resistance mounts to the CPEC in Balochistan, the Chinese are realizing that they can’t have Gwadar on millions of dead bodies of the Baloch and appear to be keen to talk. I was myself pleasantly surprised to see Lijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad– the Chinese point man on Gwadar–, who had previously blocked me on twitter, has now unblocked me.
This year, the Chinese officials also began routinely attending the Baloch events at the Palace of Nations in Geneva and even speak out at the events to convince the Baloch that the CPEC, which is a nearly 1900-mile network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas from Gwadar Port to Kashgar city in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, is in the best interests of the Baloch people.
The Chinese are throwing dollars like crazy to win over the Baloch. “The Chinese have purchased many Balochistan journalists,” warns Inayatullah Baloch of Iowa. “The Chinese are directly giving guidelines to these journalists not to write a single thing against the CPEC,” Baloch says. He says his sources have told him that the Chinese are being stationed alongside Pakistan troops all over Balochistan.
The CPEC which is a component of President Xi Jinping One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative for global dominance will shrink “China’s routes of oil and gas imports from Africa and the Middle East by thousands of miles, making Gwadar Port a potentially vital link in China’s supply chain,” according to Global Security.
But the Baloch don’t want Chinese presence, under the bayonets of Pakistan army. It is a matter of life and death for the hapless Baloch because if China succeeds in taking over Gwadar port’s under the watch of Pakistan army, there will be no Balochistan—land of the Baloch—as they will become outnumbered and marginalized in their ancestral homeland. It will be best for Beijing to stall the project instead of drowning its $62 billion in the waters of the Baloch Gulf—the name Baloch nationalists give to the Persian or Arabian Gulf—until the key issue of Balochistan right to self determination is resolved.
As Pakistan’s leaders are brown-nosing China, the Baloch who actually own the port are raising their voice of dissent. “If the tiny Diaoyu Islands are a matter of pride and principle for China and Japan, Gwadar is also a matter of life and death for the Baloch. Any unilateral decision by Islamabad concerning the fate of Gwadar will be opposed by the Baloch at all levels,” former senator Sanaullah Baloch, wrote in The Express Tribune. He said, “There is grave concern that a large-scale Chinese presence will further militarise the Balochistan coast and the Makran region, where a non-Baloch security apparatus, that is, the FC (Frontier Corps) and the Coast Guards, has massive presence, causing immense unrest.”
Lijian Zhao, the Chinese diplomat referred to earlier, personally protested on twitter, “Diaoyu Islands are disputed territory between China and Japan. Is Gwadar disputed? Chinese are here to help Gwadar. Please be reasonable.”
The Baloch dont see any benefit of the CPEC as long as the Chinese work with the Pakistan generals. “So far as CPEC is concerned, the Baloch are resolved to sabotage China’s work and have succeeded in their efforts to some extent,” says Kachkol Ali Advocate, a former opposition leader and fisheries minister from Balochistan, who lives in Oslo, Norway. Ali believes a maritime great game is being played out in Gwadar. “The Baloch are doing what they can, according to their resistance capacity. But actually there are big powers involved with Gwadar particularly India, Dubai, Singapore, Iran and the USA.”
China’s greedy looks on Baloch waters are not new, however. Six centuries ago, during the Ming Dynasty the Chinese were present in the warm waters of the Gulf. The most famous Chinese maritime explorer and castrated Admiral Zheng He commandeered his 63 ships and over 28,000 men to Hormuz. “His giant ‘treasure ships’, packed with the finest goods and most sophisticated weaponry of the time, went to 37 countries over 28 years, exacting tribute for the Dragon Throne and extending China’s influence across much of the globe,” according to the BBC.
The CPEC has united the Baloch and the Hindus, both locally and globally, like never before. Scholar Robert D Kaplan wrote, “Indeed, as the (Pakistan) government builds roads and military bases, Baloch and minority Hindus are being forcibly displaced. Both groups are thought to harbor sympathy for India, and they do: in Baloch and Hindu eyes, India acts as a counterweight to an oppressive Pakistani state.”