Director EFSAS Junaid Qureshi

Geneva: Director of the Amsterdam-based think-tank, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies, Junaid Qureshi, has said the increasing Chinese involvement in South Asia in recent years has borne the hallmarks of strategic, economic and political opportunism.

This is characterized by violent aggression in pursuit of expansionist designs along its borders with countries such as Bhutan and India, and deliberate transgression into the economic and sovereign space of vulnerable nations such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives, Qureshi said while making an intervention during the 52nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Wednesday.

He added, "In the past year, the debilitating impact of this Chinese strategy has been exposed a few times. The debt trap diplomacy that China unleashed upon smaller neighbours such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan has now evolved into a full-blown catastrophe, the magnitude of which has rightly led to considerable international focus".

"While the plight of the people of recognized countries does find expression in the media, the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan in the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, my homeland, has been less fortunate", said Junaid, who belongs to Srinagar city in India's Jammu and Kashmir state.

Junaid also highlights the issue of Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan where China is fast expanding its reach through development projects like dams and highways.

"The people of Gilgit Baltistan continue to suffer silently as they have had no say while China's exploitation, in active partnership with a subservient Pakistan, of their economic and natural resources through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has gone virtually unnoticed. The stifling of all contrarian voices by the Pakistani military establishment has also contributed to this predicament", said Junaid.

He told the UN: "In the absence of other voices to speak for them, the plight of the people of Gilgit Baltistan deserves the close attention of this august Council, as does China's utter disregard for human rights".