Pakistan and China have strongly dismissed a statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-dollar road and rail network, which is part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, passes through a disputed territory.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, apparently tried to appease India, which has long claimed that Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan is part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state.
“The ‘One Belt, One Road’ also goes through [a] disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” said Secretary Mattis appeared before the committee along with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford earlier this week to give a briefing on the situation in the Pak-Afghan region.
Secretary Mattis said the Trump administration opposed the OBOR policy in principle because in a globalised world, there were many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating OBOR. And it opposed the one going through Pakistan also because it passed through a disputed territory.
Responding to Mattis’ statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Friday urged the international community to focus on blatant human rights violations and ‘heinous crimes’ committed by Indian occupation forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
“As for the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, efforts need to be made to implement the UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir that call for a UN-supervised plebiscite to enable Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination,” it added.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, who chairs the CPEC Parliamentary Committee, also rejected the American objections over OBOR in a series of tweets.
He reminded the US that Washington had also participated in an OBOR summit. He also told the US administration that former president Barack Obama had opposed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank but failed and more of this ‘short-nearsightedness’ will result in failure too.
“Following the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, US contractors had built Mangla Dam in Azad Kashmir. Why was there no reference to a ‘disputed territory’ back then,” he asked.
Earlier in the day, the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying that the OBOR initiative was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative.
“We have repeatedly reiterated that CPEC … is not directed against third parties and has nothing to do with territorial sovereignty disputes and does not affect China’s principled stance on the Kashmir issue,” the statement said.
It said over 70 countries and international organisations, which have signed cooperation agreements with China on OBOR – including the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council – have also incorporated it in their important resolutions.
“Over 130 countries and more than 70 international organisations sent representatives to attend the international cooperation summit – ‘Belt and Road Forum’ – organised by China in May and spoke highly of the initiative,” it said.
“This fully explains that the OBOR initiative is in line with the trend of the times and conforms to the rules of development and is in line with the interests of the people of all countries and has broad and bright prospects for development,” it added.