–Beijing in talks with tribal separatists in Balochistan to protect $60bn investment
China has been directly negotiating with the Baloch militants for over five years to pacify the insurgency in the Balochistan province in an effort to protect its multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, reported Financial Times on Monday.
Pakistani officials have welcomed the talks between Baloch rebels and Chinese envoys, saying: “Ultimately, if there’s peace in Balochistan that will benefit both of us.”
“The Chinese have quietly made a lot of progress,” FT quoted a Pakistani official as saying. Even though separatists occasionally try to carry out the odd attack, they are not making a forceful push, the official told the newspaper.
Last year, 10 local workers were killed by unidentified gunmen while working near Gwadar port, the linchpin of the economic corridor.
“Some have warned that China’s investment could lead to Pakistan being treated like a client state by Beijing, despite promises that Chinese troops would not be stationed there.”
Chinese officials did not comment on the talks, though the Chinese ambassador to Islamabad said in a recent interview with the BBC that militants in Balochistan were no longer a threat to the economic corridor.
One provincial tribal leader said many young men had been persuaded to lay down their weapons by the promise of financial benefits. “Today, young men are not getting attracted to join the insurgents as they did some 10 years ago,” he said. “Many people see prosperity” as a result of the China-Pakistan corridor, he said.
Balochistan has been facing a low-key insurgency for more than seven decades. With the start of the Chinese projects in the region, the Baloch separatists had vowed to thwart the project at all cost. In past, there have small attacks on the labourers and convoy concerning the CPEC.