Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway Construction Amid Baloch Insurgency

Construction on the recently completed 893 kilometer long Gwadar-Ratodero motorway, also known as M8, was started by a Chinese contractor back in early 2004 on former President Pervez Musharraf's watch. The work was soon abandoned when three Chinese engineers were killed by a car bomb during the first week of May, 2004.  In 2003, a year before this incident, Indian intelligence agency RAW had recruited Kulbhushan Jadhav as an undercover agent. He was issued a passport under an assumed name of Hussein Mubarak Patel and sent to Chabahar in Iran to orchestrate insurgent attacks next door in Balochistan.

After the Chinese left the project, another contractor who was awarded the project could not continue M8 construction. Eventually, Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization (FWO) completed the project 13 years later in 2017. This success has come at great cost in terms of time, money and human lives. FWO has lost dozens of military and civilian employees and many more have been injured in insurgent attacks. Meanwhile, a combination of military and intelligence operations by Pakistan Army and serious infighting among militants have significantly weakened the Baloch insurgency.

Pakistan Motorways. Source: Pakistaniat.com

M8 Motorway:


The M8 motorway connects Ratodero in Sindh to Gwadar in Balochistan. It is 893 long and runs through Baloch cities of Khuzdar, Awaran, Hoshab and Turbat along its east-west route.  Its recently completed first phase has two lanes and an additional two lanes are planned to handle future traffic growth. The motorway passes over Dasht River and also provides access to Mirani Dam completed in 2006. It is the world's largest dam in terms of floodstock capacity of 588,690 cubic hectometer

Local Baloch residents now use M8 motorway on a daily basis. They say it has significantly reduced the time needed to travel from Gwadar to Turbat, and indeed, reduced the time for produce and supplies to be transported between cities, according a report in local Pakistani media.

Detailed M8 Map. Source: Scroll.in

Indian Support of Baloch Insurgency:


The current Baloch Nationalist revolt in Pakistan started in 2003, the same year that Indian intelligence agency RAW recruited Kulbhushan Jadhav and gave him a new identity as Hussein Mubarak Patel, according to Indian media reports. This was three years before the killing of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti on August 26, 2006. Jadhav was sent to Chabahar in Iran to orchestrate insurgent attacks next door in Balochistan.

Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in Balochistan in 2016. He has confessed to orchestrating insurgent attacks on targets in Balochistan that resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property.

India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website has since been removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.

It is believed to be the strongest and longest of the insurgencies seen in Pakistani Balochistan which has had earlier bouts of it in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77.

State of Baloch Insurgency:

Baloch insurgency has been significantly weakened recently by the continuing military and intelligence operations of the Pakistan Army.  The other probably more significant reason for it is serious infighting among insurgent groups from various tribes,  according to pro-insurgent US-based Baloch analyst Malik Siraj Akbar and a former US military intelligence officer retired US Lt. Col. Ralph Peters who supports Baloch insurgency.

In a US Congressional hearing on Balochistan, Peters said the most serious issues with the Baloch independence movement is “deeply troubling” infighting, according to a report in HuffPost. He condemned such bickering; going so far as to assert: “they are quickly becoming their own worst enemies.”

Peters has also pointed out gross human rights violations committed by Baloch insurgents against civilians. He said, “I am very concerned with Baloch extremists. Killing teachers and doctors is just dumb. It might feel good as revenge but it is not going to win you friends in Washington. Assassinating these folks is just hurting their movement.”

Frontier Works Organization (FWO):

The Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is a branch of the Pakistan Army that employs both active duty military officers and civilians. It was commissioned in 1966 and its first major project was the construction of the Karkoram Highway, the world's highest road that connects Pakistan with China.  Since then, the FWO has  built motorways, bridges, roads, tunnels, airfields and dams in Pakistan.

FWO has successfully completed several large construction projects in some of the most hostile conditions ranging from rough hilly terrains to insurgency-hit parts in Balochistan and federally administered tribal areas (FATA).  This success has come at great cost in terms of human lives. Dozens of FWO's military and civilian employees have lost their lives and many more have been injured in insurgent attacks.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor:

Currently, FWO is engaged in several large infrastructure projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In addition to major road construction, FWO is building housing, water projects, power plants and oil refineries in different parts of the country.

Various militant groups, including Indian government proxies, are engaged in sabotaging CPEC. While some attacks have been successful, it is believed that the Pakistani military has been able to prevent many more. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of intelligence officers are believed to be working to manage the security situation all along the western route and in Gwadar.

Summary:

The construction of the recently completed 893 kilometer long Gwadar-Ratodero motorway, also known as M8, was started by a Chinese contractor back in early 2004 on former President Pervez Musharraf's watch. The work was soon abandoned when three Chinese engineers were killed by a car bomb during the first week of May, 2004.  In 2003, a year before this incident, Indian intelligence agency RAW had recruited Kulbhushan Jadhav as an undercover agent. He was issued a passport under an assumed name of Hussein Mubarak Patel and sent to Chabahar in Iran to orchestrate insurgent attacks next door in Balochistan.

After the Chinese left the project, another contractor who was awarded the project could not continue M8 construction. Eventually, Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization (FWO) completed the project 13 years later in 2017. This success has come at great cost in terms of time, money and human lives. FWO has lost dozens of military and civilian employees and many more have been injured in insurgent attacks. Meanwhile, a combination of military and intelligence operations by Pakistan Army and serious infighting among militants have significantly weakened the Baloch insurgency.

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10 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Footprints: Road trip Balochistan

https://www.dawn.com/news/1297068

THERE was a time when the drive from Gwadar to Quetta could take up to five days, across gruelling jeep tracks. But now you can do it in two if you want to take it easy, or even one if you’re in a rush, on a highway so smooth you can sip tea while driving. How this happened is a story that weaves together the disparate strands that make up Pakistan’s troubled political landscape, as well as the forbidding geography of the terrain through which the road travels.
Following the ceremonial departure of two vessels carrying Chinese cargo from the Gwadar port on Sunday, I hitched a ride with some officers from the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) who were returning to Quetta by the road they had spent the last two and a half years building. It turned out to be a most memorable journey along 750kms of newly built highway-grade road that cuts through barren deserts and rocky mountains in majestic swoops all the way to Sorab, where it links up with the Karachi-Quetta road.

The route takes you across three highways. The M8 motorway from Gwadar to a small town called Hoshab, largely invisible from the road, near Turbat. From there it links up in an elegant Y-shaped turn with the N85, an almost 700km-long highway-grade road that takes you to the N25, which carries you through Kalat and Mastung before arriving at the mouth of the Lakpass tunnel at the entrance of Quetta.

Only a few years ago the journey was nearly impossible to make. When I covered the NFC award ceremony in Gwadar in December 2009, I asked my bureau chief in Quetta about the possibility of travelling there straight from Gwadar.

“Forget it,” he told me. “The road is non-existent and security virtually absent. We go to Gwadar via Karachi.”

This time was different; the road was impeccable. And although security remains a concern, matters are vastly improved since at least a year.

The construction of these roads actually began in 2007, but was abandoned in a year or so due to security fears coupled with a fiscal emergency that befell the government in 2008. From 2010 onwards an insurgency raged in the area, and two of the towns past which the road travels — Turbat and Panjgur — became epicentres of discontentment. In 2014, as the fiscal situation stabilised, the FWO was redeployed in the area.

“The first year was difficult,” says one of the officers I’m driving with. “IED [improvised explosive device] attacks were common, rocket fire was regular. It was quite difficult working here initially.” Almost 40 people were killed in that first year, half army and half civilian, and another 350 were injured, some seriously.


----------

This (M8) is no ordinary road. The FWO men who built it have spent more than two years deployed in the area. At its peak, there were almost 7,000 of them but now the figure has come down to 5,000 army and 7,000 civilian contractors. “When we first came, many of the people in this area had no concept of the outside world,” one of them tells me. “They viewed us with suspicion. But now that they have had some exposure, and are able to travel more easily, their outlook is beginning to change.”

Riaz Haq said...

NHA to build Bajaur (FATA) -Zhob (Balochistan) road

https://www.brecorder.com/2018/04/10/410779/nha-to-build-bajaur-zhob-road/

After approval of its PC-I, procurement of the project will be initiated .The road is part of proposed 933 mm long Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) Highway and feasibility study is initiated on the alignment proposed by the FATA Secretariat.

The project will be part of FATA Highway.

The project envisages the construction of two-lane highway as per NHA specifications.

The road will also connect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor at Zhob via DI Khan-Kuchlak Highway (N-50). The project is included in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2017-18 with an allocated amount

Rs 250 million for conducting the feasibility study and design.The construction period of project will be 24 months.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmar Mustikhan, a pro-insurgency Baloch activist based in Washington D.C., has released a video recorded in Urdu in which he has lambasted Indian intelligence agency RAW for letting him down. Mustikhan has been part of Indian sponsored media campaign to attack Pakistan in the United States. He is known to collaborate with Tarek Fatah known for his advocacy for Baloch insurgency in Pakistan. He has been in the news for heckling visiting Pakistani leaders during presentations at think tanks in the US capital.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2018/04/washington-based-baloch-activist-let.html

Mustikhan says he "was promised huge help by those who were interested in the heckling of Nawaz Sharif. None of those promises were ever fulfilled. There was this gentleman in the Indian embassy who left (for India) in January and never fulfilled his promise. There were other things that happened too," according to Pakistani media reports.

"RAW's system is so corrupt that its high officials keep 40 percent of what's earmarked. India should have been engaged in public diplomacy and helping those who are involved in raising the profile of Balochistan issue but while China is trying to build, India is choosing to bomb. India is going in the opposite direction—it should have helped the people who are involved in diplomatic effort," he said.

The RAW man he named in his video is Nagesh Bhushan. He says Bhushan worked at the Indian spy agency's Balochistan Desk. Another Indian journalist Aveek Sen has described Bhushan as "media fixer" in a 2016 tweet in response to pro-independence Baloch activist Shah Nawaz Bugti. Sen's tweet said "hello, Mr. Nagesh Bhushan. Introducing the media fixer to the world".

Here's Mustikhan's video:

https://youtu.be/XOEaea4u8_4

Riaz Haq said...

From Dawn newspaper:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1402319

A senior Baloch activist claimed on Tuesday that he heckled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his 2015 visit to Washington at the behest of Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Ahmer Mustikhan, foun­der of the American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) group, posted three online statements on Facebook on Tuesday after a district court in Maryland rejected an appeal to muzzle him.

AFB’s two Indian supporters — Soumya Chowd­hury and Krishna Gudipati — had filed the appeal, asking the judge to stop Mr Mustikhan from publicly sharing the internal affairs of the group. The court agreed with the Baloch activist’s plea that the US constitution guaranteed his freedom of expression.

Mr Mustikhan, who is also a journalist, claimed in the videos that he was “let down” by RAW operatives working from the Indian embassy in Washington. He identified one of them as Nagesh Bhushan who, Mr Mustikhan said, manned RAW’s Balochistan Desk.

On Oct 22, 2015, Mr Mustikhan heckled Mr Sharif during his speech at the US Institute for Peace in Washington and was removed by security personnel as he continued shouting for several minutes.

He then appeared on a series of Indian talk shows, explaining why he heckled the prime minister. He also heckled other Pakistani leaders, particularly former president Pervez Musharraf.

“I did this with a heavy heart, as I have no fight with Nawaz Sharif. He is an elected prime minister,” he told Dawn.

“Others, I heckled willingly.”

Mr Mustikhan said that India was supporting terrorism in Pakistan and this support started after the Kargil war and that’s why the current insurgency had continued for 12 years.

Mr Mustikhan claimed that RAW encouraged militants to kill Punjabi, Pakhtun and even Sindhi civilians. “We have no fight with civilians. They are our brothers,” he said. “They gave me a lot of mental torture [for opposing their plans]. They say if you kill, you are a hero otherwise you are zero.”

Riaz Haq said...

RAW: India’s External Intelligence Agency
India’s primary espionage agency and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have long been at odds in a long-standing battle for influence.

Backgrounder by Jayshree Bajoria


https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/raw-indias-external-intelligence-agency

Since its inception in 1968, RAW has had a close liaison relationship with KHAD, the Afghan intelligence agency, due to the intelligence it has provided RAW on Pakistan. This relationship was further strengthened in the early 1980s when the foundation was laid for a trilateral cooperation involving RAW, KHAD, and the Soviet KGB. Raman says RAW valued KHAD’s cooperation for monitoring the activities of Sikh militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Sikhs in the Indian state of Punjab were demanding an independent state of Khalistan. According to Raman, Pakistan’s ISI set up clandestine camps for training and arming Khalistani recruits in Pakistan’s Punjab Province and North West Frontier Province. During this time, the ISI received large sums from Saudi Arabia and the CIA for arming the Afghan mujahadeen against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. “The ISI diverted part of these funds and arms and ammunition to the Khalistani terrorists,” alleges Raman.

---------------

As a result, India established a dedicated external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing. Founded mainly to focus on China and Pakistan, over the last forty years the organization has expanded its mandate and is credited with greatly increasing India’s influence abroad. Experts say RAW’s powers and its role in India’s foreign policy have varied under different prime ministers. RAW claims that it contributed to several foreign policy successes:

the creation of Bangladesh in 1971;
India’s growing influence in Afghanistan;
the northeast state of Sikkim’s accession to India in 1975;
the security of India’s nuclear program;
the success of African liberation movements during the Cold War.
Over the last forty years the organization has expanded its mandate and is credited with increasing India’s influence.

RAW’s first leader, Rameshwar Nath Kao, led the agency until he retired in 1977. Many experts, including officers who worked with him, credit Kao with RAW’s initial successes: India’s triumph in the 1971 war with Pakistan, and India’s covert assistance to the African National Congress’s anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. “To a large extent, it was Kao who raised RAW to the level of India’s premier intelligence agency, with agents in virtually every major embassy and high commission,” writes Singh. But the organization has been criticized for its lack of coordination with domestic intelligence and security agencies, weak analytical capabilities, and complete lack of transparency.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Adopting Advance Technologies Rapidly: Anusha Rehman
Daniyal Sohail

https://www.urdupoint.com/en/technology/pakistan-adopting-advance-technologies-rapidl-321642.html

Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman Friday said, Pakistan was one of those countries that had been adopting the advance technology most rapidly to counter challenges of modern, digital era.

While addressing the concluding ceremony of five-day "Huawei mobile Pakistan Congress 2018" the minister said, the technology advancements were coming in Pakistan adding "we also hope that we can have huawei made in Pakistan as soon as possible." Anusha said, Ministry of IT had started projects for Baluchistan worth Rs 26 billion to provide 3g service to the people there.

In the history of IT of Pakistan, this was the biggest investment for Balochistan, which aimed to target hundreds of villages to connect these remote areas with 3G service, she added. She said,a population of about 196,177, covering 269 mauzas and an area of 39,434 sq kms would get modern broadband facilities through this project.

The project would cover Awaran, Jhal Jao and Mashkai tehsils/sub-tehsils of Awaran district and Bela, Lakhra, Liari, Uthal, Dureji, Hub, Sonmiani and Kanraj of Lasbel district, she added. The Minister said, after launching 3G services in Baluchistan, other services like careem would be start in in the province which would be a great achievement of Ministry of Information Technology.

She emphasized the importance of technological advancement and virtual assistance for the generations to come to bring this nation on path of Technology evolution and prosperity. "Government is making all out efforts to introduce 5G technology in Pakistan by 2020 to bring it at par with Developed economies in term of technology advancements." She emphasized that women's economic empowerment was at the heart of the sustainable development and essential to achieve gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.

She shared initiatives steered by IT ministry in this regard, particularly ICT for Girls program. She said, achievements of Pakistan in the arena of ICT and future plans for continued growth in this sector would enable transformation into "Digital Pakistan".

Anusha described the DigiSkills program as an important part of Information Technology initiative of the government that would create online employment opportunities to enable youth to earn 200 to 300 dollars per month and with the help of this program, youth from across the country would provide services across the globe.

She appreciated the Huawei Technology role in setting such precedent to promote emerging technologies in Pakistan by involving Industry players and engaging the Government to make it reality. The Minister hoped that people of Pakistan were going to use the opportunities that were created by Huawei, the technology giant.

Riaz Haq said...

Western route of CPEC to be completed earlier than eastern route: Chinese envoy

https://dunyanews.tv/en/Business/445901-Western-route-CPEC-eastern-route

Acting Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Zhao Lijan Friday said that under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), western route of the project would be completed earlier than the eastern route.

Speaking at the National Press Club here about CPEC Project, the Chinese envoy dispelled rumors about the Western Route and said that western route of CPEC would be completed earlier than the eastern route.

He said work on various project under the CPEC was going with full speed and 22 projects would be completed during the current year while 18 projects would be completed next year.

He said around 70,000 Pakistanis had got employment in these projects.

The Chinese envoy said under the CPEC, the government had plan to complete a total of 200 projects till 2030 which would provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of people.

He expressed the hope that the next government in Pakistan would also continue the pace of progress on CPEC projects.

About Gwadar Port, he said, Gwadar International Airport would be completed in October this year. He said fisheries was an important sector of Gwadar and establishing a re-processing plant at the port Pakistan could further increase its exports.

He invited the overseas Pakistanis to come to their country and invest in Gwadar Port, adding that more than 30 Pakistanis companies had been registered at the Port.

He said the investors were being provided facilities of electricity, gas, water and wifai.

In energy projects under the CPEC, he said, $13 billion were being invested, adding that several energy projects had been completed which had overcome load-shedding problem in Pakistan to a great extent.

Under the CPEC, he said industrial parts would be established in Pakistan.

To a question, he said Pakistani were hard workers and capable people and if they could make an atomic bomb then stabilizing their economy was not a big task for them. He said in the 1970s decade Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was equal to China, adding that today’s success story of China was a result of hard work and dedication of Chinese people.

He said that China desired improvement in Pak-India relations and both Pakistan and India could resolve their issues with peaceful dialogue.

Riaz Haq said...

ADB approves $100m loan to address Balochistan’s water shortage
A separate $2 million technical assistance from JFPR will help the provincial government improve its institutional capacity to address the risks and potential impact of climate change in the agriculture sector

https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/pakistan/adb-approves-100m-loan-to-address-balochistans-water-shortage/

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) on Monday approved a $100 million loan to address chronic water shortages and increase earnings on farms in southwestern Pakistan province of Balochistan.

The Balochistan Water Resources Development Sector Project will focus on improving irrigation infrastructure and water resource management in the Zhob and Mula river basins, the ADB said in a statement.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Bolochistan’s economy,” said ADB Principal Water Resources Specialist Yaozhou Zhou. “This project will build irrigation channels and dams, and introduce efficient water usage systems and practices, to help farmers increase food production and make more money,” he added.

Among the infrastructure that will be upgraded or built for the project is a dam able to hold 36 million cubic meters of water, 276 kilometers of irrigation channels and drainage canals, and facilities that will make it easier for people, especially women, to access water for domestic use.

In total, about 16,592 hectares (ha) of land will be added or improved for irrigation.

The project will protect watersheds through extensive land and water conservation efforts, including planting trees and other measures on 4,145 ha of barren land to combat soil erosion.

Part of the project’s outputs are the pilot testing of technologies such as solar-powered drip irrigation systems on 130 ha of agricultural land, improving crop yields and water usage on 160 fruit and vegetable farms and demonstrating high-value agriculture development.

The project will also establish a water resources information system that will use high-level technology such as satellite and remote sensing to do river basin modelling and identify degraded land for rehabilitation.

ADB will also administer grants from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) and the High-Level Technology Fund (HLT Fund) worth $3 million and $2 million, respectively, for the project.

A separate $2 million technical assistance from JFPR will help Balochistan’s provincial government improve its institutional capacity to address the risks and potential impact of climate change in the agriculture sector, as well as build a climate-resilient and sustainable water resources management mechanism in the province.

JFPR, established in May 2000, provides grants for ADB projects supporting poverty reduction and social development efforts, while the HLT Fund, established in April 2017, earmarks grant financing to promote technology and innovative solutions in ADB projects.

ADB said it is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.

Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members of which 48 are from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.

Riaz Haq said...

China strengthens its grip on south Asia By: Elliot Wilson Published on


@ 2018 Results index If the Belt and Road Initiative has a blind spot, it is surely to be found in south Asia. The region is home to one country that can’t get enough of the project (Pakistan), and another (India) that wants nothing to do with it. Does this matter? Well, yes and no. On the plus side, Pakistan, which is chronically short of friends and capital, shows no sign of falling out of love with a project that continues to shower it with financial largesse. The list of Chinese-funded and Chinese-built infrastructure projects is long and impressive. Take the $2.9 billion, 400-kilometre stretch of the M5 Motorway funded by China Development Bank (CDB) and built by China State Construction Engineering. When the motorway is completed later this year, the cities of Karachi and Lahore will finally be linked, by a project that was first drawn up as long ago as the 1990s. CDB is the financial driving force behind many of the big local BRI deals. In December 2017, the policy bank was a key player in a 10-year, $700 million syndicated term loan raised for the finance ministry, a deal that included partial guarantees from the World Bank. It is funding an $883 million coal-fired power plant at Port Qasim. And in April, CDB shelled out $1 billion to a government that, not for the first time, faces a looming financing crisis. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves dipped below the $10 billion mark this July, for the first time since 2014. China is unlikely to turn off the spigot, even though the position of prime minister, vacated after the arrest of Nawaz Sharif in July, has been filled by Imran Khan, the former cricketer who campaigned hard against alleged corruption in local China-backed construction projects. Yet Beijing is clearly keen to keep Khan on-side: days after his election, it handed Pakistan another $2 billion, bolstering the perception that however bad its finances get, China will not turn its back on the south Asian state. That should come as no surprise. Beijing plans to spend up to $57 billion by 2030 on a profusion of new domestic infrastructure projects – ports, airports, highways, power plants, transmission lines, solar parks – which are all part of the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Both can see clearly what they get out of this transactional alliance: for China, a reliable overland route to the Indian Ocean that bypasses the Malacca Strait, and for Pakistan, the infrastructure it always wanted and needed, but couldn’t afford. And so we turn to India, which has, to say the least, a different relationship with its giant neighbour. It was a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2014, and is the second-largest contributor after the People’s Republic, funding the China-led multilateral to the tune of $8.4 billion. It is also a founding member of another multilateral, the Shanghai-headquartered New Development Bank, which is chaired by KV Kamath, the former chairman of Indian IT firm Infosys. Yet India adamantly refuses to be considered a belt-and-road nation. Rafiqul Islam At a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June, India was the only member state that did not tacitly endorse the BRI programme. New Delhi resents the mere existence of the CPEC project with Pakistan, and fears being outflanked in its own backyard by Beijing, which is funding a series of massive infrastructure projects in states that border India, or are historically aligned with it. The question arises: does India need to be part of the BRI project?

Full article: https://www.euromoney.com/article/b19zv4qt994gg1/china-strengthens-its-grip-on-south-asia?copyrightInfo=true
Visit http://www.euromoney.com/reprints for additional distribution rights. For more articles like this, follow us @euromoney on Twitter.

Riaz Haq said...

Five years on: Belt and Road projects changed lives of many


https://tribune.com.pk/story/1805002/1-five-years-belt-road-projects-changed-lives-many/


Qasir Abbas, a 40-year-old Pakistani farmer who owns a 400-acre mango farm in Multan in the central Punjab Province, witnessed changes brought about by the construction of the Multan-Sukkur Motorway, locally known as M5.

Abbas sells mangoes from his hometown, known for conditions favourable to food and crops such as mango, cotton and sugarcane, to the southern major port city of Karachi, some 900km away. However, the two cities were connected with a poorly maintained highway, with the whole journey taking about 21 hours.

Governor inaugurates CPEC’s Centre of Excellence

The 392km six-lane M5 is the largest transportation infrastructure project under the CPEC, a corridor linking Karachi and northwestern Peshawar and running through the populated provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

The first 33-km section of the M5 was inaugurated in May this year, with a speed limit of 120 km per hour. The whole project is scheduled to be completed by August 2019. “By then, it will take only 14 hours to transport my mangoes to Karachi,” Abbas said.

In Laos
Life took a surprising turn in early 2016 for Bounmy Phonmixay, a 21-year-old young woman in the central Lao town of Kasi, when a team of engineers arrived for a rail project near her home.

CPEC to bring development revolution, says Bizenjo

It was literally a game-changer.

A single mum, Bounmy lives with her mother and her three-year-old daughter. Two years ago, she was almost in a depressing state of hopelessness, struggling to make ends meet by growing paddy rice and vegetables on leased land. Then, she found a job working at the construction site of the China-Laos railway, an infrastructure project under the Belt and Road Initiative.

When she showed up for an interview with Xinhua recently at the railway project site in Kasi, she was wearing the makeup she likes. “I like wearing makeup, but I seldom did it in the past since I didn’t have much money back then. Now I can afford my own cosmetics and put on makeup whenever I want to,” she said joyfully.

The game changer

The Chinese engineers were there to prepare for the railway project, which links the Mohan-Boten border gate in the northern part of the landlocked country with the capital Vientiane.

Is CPEC also a game changer for Balochistan?

Bounmy was offered the job in 2016 to cook for the builders who were away from home. She got to know many of the builders and was happy with her new job. She learned to cook some dishes, both Chinese and Lao.

“I earn 1.5 million kip (about $176) every month. I give 200,000 kip to my mother, spend 500,000 kip on my daughter’s snacks, milk and toys, and still have 800,000 to myself,” she said. “Although it is quite a busy job, working here makes me feel like being home.”

The China-Laos railway is the first overseas route to connect with the railway system in China, leveraging Chinese technology, equipment and investment. It is designed to have an operating speed of 160 km per hour.

“We grow excellent paddy rice and xiaomila (a pepper) here in Kasi, but not many people know it,” she said. “Hopefully, with the new railway in place, more people would travel to Kasi and take our products farther away so they would be better known to all.”

China rejects reports of talks with Baloch rebels to protect CPEC investment

The railway is expected to be fully operational in 2021, but Bounmy does not worry about losing her job by then. “I have learnt a lot from my work, especially Chinese cooking. When the railway is in place, there will be many people traveling around the station, then I’ll start my own restaurant there,” she said.