CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is going to enter in its much awaited, heated and debated phase-II in the country. In this connection, Prime Minister Imran Khan christened it crucial for social and agricultural development. Nevertheless, the absence of a proper inclusive security concept is still haunting the life, productivity and pace of ongoing projects of CPEC in the country. Due to certain regional geopolitical complexities and global geostrategic complicated reasons, CPEC has been in the line of fire since its inception. In this connection, the traditional dividing line between issues of Hard National Security (HNS) and promotion of international and national interests becomes blurred which has been one of the main reasons for dissemination of propaganda against CPEC. Unfortunately, Soft National Security Narrative (SNSN) has not been properly diffusing the political differences and left the window open for foreigners to manipulate.
In this regard, main stakeholders have been battling out for ultimate domination due to which pace of development has been compromised. Puppetry media and pseudo intellectuals have been on the edge of grand sale to align with the whims & wishes of the Western masters and tarnish CPEC. Continued western propaganda crisis no longer remains in their separate and distinct boxes and created unwanted discomfort among the main stakeholders from both sides. Notwithstanding, political jugglers and media magicians should understand that failure to consolidate economic development and social peace can result in instability and chaos that serve as breeding grounds for political instability, ethnic division and other threats to national peace question mark on NSN. Thus smooth sailing of CPEC is must for the further strengthening of socio-economic prosperity and national security too because economics and politics have direct correlation.
For achieving the Integrated Inclusive Security System (IISS) in the country the government deployed 15,000 military personnel (9,000 Pakistan Army soldiers & 6,000 para-military forces personnel) as part of the Special Security Division (SSD) and Maritime Security Force (MSF), to protect projects under the flagship of the CPEC. In this context, most recently Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong called on Maj Gen M. Aamer Najam, GOC SSD (South) and Rear Admiral Jawad Ahmed, Commander Pakistan Navy Western Command and appreciated the efforts made by the defence forces in safeguarding the smooth progress of CPEC projects and personnel. Both forces will work under the Interior Ministry, in coordination with the provinces, to ensure the safety of locals and foreigners working on CPEC projects.
The SSD provides security to 34 CPEC-related projects, while the MSF safeguards the Gwadar Port and other coastal areas of the country. Moreover, the SSD has been deployed in six zones from Gwadar to Gilgit-Baltistan, including all four provinces and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). It is responsible for the security of the area within a 5km radius of CPEC-related projects. It also patrols different areas of the corridor, especially where road-building projects are underway. Both the SSD and MSF were formed in view of possible threats to the over $60 billion CPEC and the foreign nationals presently engaged in infrastructure and power generation projects being commissioned under its umbrella. The SSD and MSF were developed and equipped with state-of-the-art weapons, equipment and vehicles. “Most SSD personnel are the serving army men.
The security situation in Balochistan has drastically improved since the launch of the CPEC and now there is better infrastructure. Now many Chinese projects are underway and consequently, the security development and investment situation will improve significantly. The strategically located deep-sea port of Gwadar is the cornerstone of CPEC. In this connection, Pakistan Army’s Strategic Division has been deployed with the responsibility of defending CPEC, the onus of keeping the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) open and protecting Pakistan’s coast as well as the ports of Karachi, Bin-Qasim, Ormara and Gwadar rest with Pakistan Navy (PN). For the further safety and security of the CPEC projects a special organization Task Force-88 (TF-88) has been created and assigned the duty for the seaward security of Gwadar Port and protection of associated sea lanes against both conventional and non-traditional threats.
TF-88 comprises 400 Marines, which specialize in defending marine assets both onshore and seaward, against threats emanating from subsurface, surface and aerial. The Task Force has been equipped with suitable platforms comprising gunboats, frigates, Fast Attack Craft, aircraft and drones as well as other electronic surveillance means. If we look at the larger geopolitical picture and development of CPEC, we conclude that the success of the CPEC and the Gwadar Port project is linked to the safe and secure maritime environment in the Indian Ocean region in general and the Arabian Sea in particular. The PN has adopted a multifaceted holistic approach to deal with the prevailing state & non-state threats and challenges such as beefing up security of Gwadar Port, conducting security patrols and coastal exercises, enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness and engaging in Collaborative Maritime Security with regional and extra-regional navies.
Now Pakistan Navy is in charge of the security of Gwadar Port, its infrastructure, and Chinese personnel working within port and harbour defence responsibility. PN has also stationed a Force Protection Battalion (FPBn) of Pak Marines along with requisite assets and equipment, both afloat and ashore, to ensure security of the Port and the Chinese personnel. It has been further augmented with the proportionate increase in trade and associated activities in the Port. It hopes that economic prosperity brought about by the mega projects of CPEC will defeat the motives of terrorists as, with the success of the project, more employment and business opportunities will be unlocked, and people’s livelihood will improve.
Being a prominent regional expert of China, CPEC & BRI, this scribe submits that Integrated Inclusive Security System (IISS) is the need of the hour to start CPEC phase-II. It will also cater to non-traditional threats to humanity, human progress, survival, socio-economic prosperity and massive industrialization in the country. Modern IISS deals with looming threats of climate change, massive migration of people/refugees, terrorism, human & drugs trafficking and last but not the least radicalization which should also be replicated in the security system of CPEC.
Sway of Soft National Security or soft image needs revisiting at the highest level to streamline the CPEC. Model of modern corporate management of Balancing, Development and Diversity should be need of the hour. Inclusion of new hydro-projects, initiation of green energies projects, social development, affordable housing, promising education, tourism and agriculture should be part & parcel of CPEC Phase-II because the latest concept of security also includes a social security system. To conclude, Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are badly ignored in the CPEC projects. It has been one of the main tools for China to eradicate poverty (850 million people) in its country which should also be replicated in Pakistan.