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CPEC: An economic project with military implications

CPEC: An economic project with military implications

China is going full steam ahead with its ambitious and strategically important airport project in the extreme northwest region.

The launch ceremony of the high-altitude airport being built in Taxkorgan, also known as Tashkurgan, a city which shares borders with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Afghanistan and Tajikistan, took place recently.

Located in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the east of Pamir Plateau—over 3,000 miles away from Beijing—the airport will give China an unimaginable hold over the region, all the way till Gwadar port in south-west Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.

More importantly, it will allow China to use the facility as a military airbase in the times of any conflict in the region.

No wonder the Indian authorities are bracing for a new headache in future.

"With an investment of around 1.63 billion yuan ($230 million), the new airport will include a runway, 3,800 meters long and 45 meters wide, a terminal building, a control tower and other auxiliary facilities involving fuel feeding, power supply and fire rescue. The new airport is designed to handle 160,000 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo and mail a year," reported China's official state-run news agency Xinhua while quoting a statement from the Xinjiang Regional Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">The construction project of the 1st airport on plateau in NW <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/China?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#China</a>'s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Xinjiang?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Xinjiang</a> started up in the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous Country on Sunday. It is expected to be accomplished in 3 years with an annual passenger throughput of 160,000. <a href="https://t.co/7hPb2g7U1r">pic.twitter.com/7hPb2g7U1r</a></p>
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) <a href="https://twitter.com/globaltimesnews/status/1254419594749476864?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 26, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">A new airport, Taxkorgan Airport, began construction Sunday on Pamir Plateau, NW China's Xinjiang. Located at 3,252 meters above sea level, it is expected to be the highest airport in the region after completion. <a href="https://t.co/AyHPkjlVni">pic.twitter.com/AyHPkjlVni</a></p>
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) <a href="https://twitter.com/PDChina/status/1254764736949809154?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 27, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Not too long ago, in May 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping had announced his 'Silk Road' plan to the world in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Beijing.

China had said it would boost trade and connect Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trading routes and that it had no "hidden" military designs.

"I want to make it very clear, BRI initiative and with CPEC under it, it's purely a commercial development project. We don't have any kind of military or strategic design for that," Yao Jing, Chinese ambassador to Islamabad, had told Voice of America (VOA) two years ago.

Not many believed China.

We are 'iron brothers' and 'all-weather' friends, exclaimed Pakistan.

However, the appointment of retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, a former director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations from 2012 to 2016, as the CPEC Chairman and Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister made the intentions of both the countries quite clear, last year.

The developments, be it Bajwa's appointment, CPEC and now the construction of the airport, are a huge cause for concern for India.

Taxkorgan is the last stop before you enter PoK from China, it is just 367 km north of Kargil and just over 200 km from PoK's Gilgit, the weather forecast for which is provided by the Indian Meteorological Department!

"It [the new airport] will create a new 'air passage' leading to Central Asia and South Asia," Zhou Xiang, deputy director of Xinjiang's Civil Aviation Administration, told China Global Television Network (CGTN).

<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-2197" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/4de472e17c991f837fc2535f7e90086a-scaled.jpg" alt="" />

With anxious militaries from both the countries so actively participating in all these projects, one has to be extremely credulous to believe such statements.

Already a 10-member Chinese military team, headed by Major General Huang Qingzhen, which arrived in two 'special' aircrafts last month, is stationed in Pakistan and will remain there till June.

While Pakistan maintains the Chinese are there to help them tackle Covid-19 pandemic, what's happening under the garb of 'assistance by medical experts' is anybody's guess..