By Wang Wenwen
A Chinese man and his wife who teach Chinese at a local language center were abducted from Quetta’s Jinnah Town, in Baluchistan Province in southwestern Pakistan Wednesday.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yet. But it is worth noting that Islamic militants have often carried out abductions of foreigners on Pakistani soil, either for ransom or to get publicity for their cause.
Chinese people have also been targeted occasionally, despite the friendly relations between the two countries. The Chinese presence in Pakistan has increased in the past few years thanks to the thriving China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $46-billion investment project that involves roads, ports, power plants and other crucial infrastructure in this South Asian country. It is also the flagship project of the China-led Belt and Road initiative.
Baluchistan is in the center of the CPEC which is expected to link China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the southern coast.
But the restive region has seen frequent violence committed by Islamic terrorists and separatists and the Belt and Road program is often be exposed to potential threats. Last year, a Chinese engineer was injured in a bomb attack in southern Pakistan and a separatist group, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were targeting the CPEC.
Pakistan is betting big on the economic corridor which will be a major boost to its future development. The logic behind this project is that fundamentally improving Pakistan’s economy will help eliminate the challenges posed by political extremists, radicals and jihadists in the country.
But these challenges have posed risks to this ongoing project that require attention and solutions from both sides. The Pakistani government has deployed 15,000 military personnel to protect projects under the economic corridor. China has also urged Pakistan to intensify its efforts in protecting the safety of Chinese personnel in the nation.
If implemented well, the Belt and Road initiative would become a milestone during the process of China’s rise. The CPEC and the other projects under the grand initiative are like every investment where opportunities and risks co-exist. Terrorism, unstable domestic politics, and disagreement among various parties within Pakistan about how CPEC transportation routes should be mapped out are prominent challenges to the implementation of the CPEC.