Gwadar has been repeatedly termed, and for all the right reasons, as the future economic hub of the country. It was the primary attraction for the Chinese to pour the multi-billion dollar investment to construct the shortest passage through Pakistan for goods transport around the world. As the port will grow, the maritime traffic is going to increase exponentially resulting in the revenue flow for Pakistan. The incumbent governments have also been busy making the world aware of the potential that the port possesses and wants all the relevant stakeholders on board.
Especially after the placement of the country on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), large-scale efforts are necessary to help build the investor-friendly and peace-loving image of Pakistan. It is very important for the long-term interest that the economic interests of the countries which have a say in global affairs are pegged to Pakistan.
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For instance, multiple countries are vouching for a trade waiver with Iran, not because they are sympathetic to the efforts Iran has made with respect to the Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA, but simply because the oil trade with Iran is beneficial for them. Indirectly it is helpful for Iran if the countries manage to secure a waiver from the USA, as it will provide a breathing space for its economy. With CPEC, Pakistan has synched the interest of China with its own wellbeing but more stakeholders need to be taken on board.
The fruit of economic activity at Gwadar port would be beneficial for the entire country in general; however, it is very important to address the needs of Balochistan first. Multiple efforts have been made over the years and particularly after the inception of CPEC that the people of Balochistan are treated on a priority basis. A province that is most rich invaluable energy and mineral resources has unfortunately remained impoverished over the years. It has been one of the main reasons for the volatile security situation and enhanced insurgency in Balochistan. As the benefits of government spending on the social wellbeing of the people of Balochistan would start to seep in, the insurgency is bound to go down drastically.
Gwadar offers various investment opportunities for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Recently, Saudi Arabia has shown interest in the establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar. As the security situation and the image of the country will continue to get better, more investors are likely to tap the opportunity which offers a promising return. It would result in job creation for the Pakistani workforce and overall the economic outlook of the country would improve.
As soon as Chinese President Xi Jinping took the office, he came up with a revolutionary idea of reviving the old Silk Route. The said route connected the major trade centers of the globe and China emerged as the world trade leader. This initiative is vigorously referred to as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It has two distinct components – the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR)’. Indian Ocean since the announcements gained prominence in Chinese and western strategists’ thoughts as both the components of BRI i.e the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and MSR will pass through this region.
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IOR is central to China’s dreams of restoring its massive economic empire
China Pakistan Economic Corridor commonly known as CPEC has a rail-road project which will link the western Xinjiang province of China with Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar. CPEC is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative which will link more than sixty countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. Special Economic Zones and Industrial parks will be set up as part of CPEC. The present cost of this mega project is USD $62 which is only expected to rise in near future. Like Maritime Silk Route (MSR), India views CPEC with great suspicion and is bent upon sabotaging this project. India’s clandestine support for Baloch insurgents and terrorists inside Pakistan is an effort on New Delhi’s part to prevent the completion of this project.
As CPEC and Maritime Silk Route (MSR), both are parts of China’s BRI plan. Hence, MSR, CPEC will boost China’s economic prowess and enable it to avoid the risky South China Sea, Strait of Malacca and Bay of Bengal and directly access the Persian Gulf. This will secure China’s energy supplies and trade with the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
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And will also boost regional economies like Pakistan. Moreover, Extra-regional forces with the help of India are suspicious of these projects. The clash of interests had brought China at loggerheads with these powers and has given birth to Sino-Indian rivalry in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the success of Chinese maritime interests depends largely upon the success of these projects.
The author is an Assistant Professor at Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCE), Pakistan Navy War College, Lahore and holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.