Image Credit: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
As Beijing planned it, Pakistan was to be the centerpiece of its sprawling Belt and Road Initiative. Centered on what’s being called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China has pledged backing for some $62 billion in port, road, rail and other projects along a 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer) belt connecting a deep-water port at Gwadar to Kashgar in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. CPEC embodies Belt and Road’s grandest strategic and economic ambitions. If successful, it would open a critical trading route to the Indian Ocean, allowing China to bypass chokepoints in the Pacific. It would help modernize underdeveloped economies in remote, restive regions of China, expand China’s commercial influence, pull Pakistan more firmly into its orbit, and counterbalance India’s warming military relationship with the U.S. and its allies.
Yet, CPEC is also proving host to some of BRI’s thorniest challenges. On Aug. 11, for example, Baloch separatists targeted a bus carrying C