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Hambantota under China; a Precedent set for Pakistan?

Last year, in December, Sri Lanka handed over its strategic Hambantota port to China, failing to repay the loan of $1.1 billion.

The action is viewed by the international community and political analysts as another milestone in China's progress towards gaining regional hegemony. To deal with the growing threat from the main rival in the region, India, the move will aid the communist country to develop economic zones and increase industrialization through the port, making its presence in the Indian Ocean more prominent. The major strategic ventures like OBOR (One Belt One Road) have already made China the key geopolitical player in the region.

It is quite evident that Sri Lanka has to pay a long term cost for the loans taken from China to deal with 26 years of civil war.

China's interventionist agenda appears to pose inevitable threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the smaller states by creating economic dependencies for them. This has been done for a long time now through soft loans, bilateral trade agreements and infrastructural projects as the main incentives for the countries with weak and exploited economies.

This may insist the economic managers in Pakistan to reevaluate their dependency on soft loans from China to cover the peaking fiscal deficit. The country took $1 billion from China Development Bank and $500 million from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), without any clear policy on how to pay those back. An average citizen has already started questioning the fruits promised from CPEC especially from the early harvest projects (let alone expecting favorable outcomes from long term plans).

It cannot be celebrated as a step away from being enslaved to IMF. In fact, Pakistan will not be able to reduce its external account pressure without the loans from IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank in future.

It is now high time for the economic and political leadership to question if they can afford to let China establish de facto sovereignty in the country, which for sure is the one of the most alarming situations any independent and democratic country would face.

  • Hambantota
  • port
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • soft loans
  • sovereignty