Beijing: China’s Belt and road initiative, a trillion-dollar chain of infrastructure development programs across 70 countries built and financed by Beijing has reportedly begun to reveal its true motive. Chinese officials have stated the Belt and Road is an economic project with peaceful intent. However, developments indicate otherwise.

When Pakistan lost its security aid from the United States many thought that it would lead to Pakistan cooperating better with US allies, but reality was a different story as a couple of weeks later Pakistan air force and Chinese Officials were working on a proposal to expand Pakistan’s building of Chinese jets and weaponry.

These projects were all part of China’s Belt and Road initiative which reportedly reveals the intent of China fulfilling its military ambitions and confirming the suspicions of many nations. The New York Times has reported that this would also deepen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in space, a frontier the Pentagon said Beijing was trying to militarize after decades of playing catch-up.

China has poured in a lot of money in Pakistan. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has a project funding of about $62 billion. The CPEC is one of the major concerns for India.

As reported by Parul Chandra of SNi, the foreign secretary of India has reiterated concerns over China’s Belt and Road Initiative which India does not support as well as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of BRI and will run through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Nitin Gokhale of SNi reports, “The BRI–Chinese President Xi Jingping’s signature project—is five years old but India made public its opposition to the connectivity plans in May 2017, saying the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ under the BRI violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Delhi has in the past made it clear that no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity. India has also pointed out that apart from sovereignty concerns, it believes ‘connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality.’

It's true that Pakistan and China are now close as ever, after the former country’s ties with the United States have gone cold.  But some Pakistani officials have shown concerns about Pakistan losing its sovereignty to China. There is little choice, however, for Pakistan at this point but to go along with their ally.

A seaport in Pakistan gives Beijing access to a quicker route to the Arabian Sea, but apart from trade benefits, it serves as a strategic advantage point against India and United States in case tension worsens and there are naval blockades.

Reportedly, the focus of Belt and Road are structures that are visible, but access to technology and to security systems that come along with it pose a threat.

The Economic Times reports that in recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have built or begun constructing seaports at strategic spots around the Indian Ocean, including places in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

China insists that the ports would not be militarized, but analysts fear otherwise. Sri Lanka, unable to pay its debt handed over its port in Hambantota. US Vice President Mike Pence stated China was luring them into debt traps.

Reports further state China could use the port in Pakistan’s Gwadar as a naval footprint of its attack submarines. This, military analysts deduce, is a result of China’s agreement to sell eight submarines to Pakistan in a $6 billion deal.

All eyes are now on China who took a chance with Pakistan when no one was willing to invest in the country.  Chinese and Pakistani officials have stated that Pakistan has a huge debt problem with an overall of debt of $215 billion. Pakistan currently owes China $23 billion with almost half of the CPEC project complete.  The country however stands to owe China $62 billion.

Pakistan could become a showcase for other countries seeking to shift from procuring US military equipment.  The weapons market could expand for China as they would be willing to sell advanced weaponry to countries like Saudi Arabia which the US would not do.

At the start of the year, an undisclosed proposal drawn up by Pakistani air for force and Chinese officials called for the creation of a special economic zone under CPEC to produce a new generation of fighter jets. Navigation systems, radar systems and onboard weapons would be built jointly by China and Pakistan.

In 2013, China signed an agreement with Pakistan to build a network of satellite stations to establish the Beidou Navigation system as an alternative to the American GPS network.  By 2020, all satellites for the system will be launched in collaboration with all Belt and Road countries.  Beidou has a civilian function and a military one.  What’s more important is that China will be able to track all activities, be it civilian navigation or rocket launches.

All this being said, China’s relationship with Pakistan has not been without tension though they have been as close as ever. The CPEC could still be vulnerable to political changes in Pakistan.