Jan Achakzai |
Pakistan has successfully launched two auxiliary corridors to CPEC by engaging Saudi Arabia and Russia to leverage its geostrategic location ultimately opening Moscow’s access to the Indian Ocean and Riyadh’s reach to Euro-Asian markets potentially circumventing long route of Suez Canal for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) giant.
As Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious economic plan to reduce its dependence on oil exports, offset the potential loss of the US and EU markets to Shell, it is looking to expand its investment in other sectors and regions to enhance trade volume and meet the demand of oil-hungry economies of Asia in coming decades.
Russia wants to export gas by laying this offshore pipeline through Gwadar Port to Pakistan and India.
Therefore, Riyadh has indicated to invest a massive $15 billion in renewable energy in Pakistan and putting an oil refinery in Gawadar. It is also looking to launch 3 airlines, and utilize the CPEC and BRI infrastructure for further access into China and Central Asia, respectively, for future trade and energy supplies
The formal announcement is likely to be made in coming weeks following the high profile visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan. Almost 12 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are ready to be inked: Oil, sports, agriculture, media among other areas will be earmarked for investment. Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki has been instrumental behind these initiatives shuttling between Islamabad, Riyadh, and Gawadar leading various delegations from KSA.
Read more: Economic crisis hurting CPEC?
There is already a proposal by KSA to link Gawadar with Oman via a seabed railway tunnel or bridge potentially connecting the proposed Israeli Railway Corridor with GCC Countries: Tel Aviv via Jordon and Saudi Arabia encompassing Oman. Since Iran has bad relations with GCC countries and Israel, it will be Saudi Pakistan Economic Corridor (SPEC) which will greatly benefit from any Mediterranean/Gulf Railway links and enhanced trade preceding new geopolitical realignments.
Thus the SPEC will be complementing the CPEC and the Mediterranean Corridor. Coupled with the SPEC, the second auxiliary corridor Pakistan has succeeded to launch is the new Russia Pakistan Economic Corridor (RPEC). Russia’s access to the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea through the ports of Gwadar or Karachi and further to the Strait of Hormuz makes the shortest route.
Riyadh has indicated to invest a massive $15 billion in renewable energy in Pakistan and putting an oil refinery in Gawadar.
Pakistan is located at the crossroads of the East-West and North-South trade corridors, including the new Silk Road project in South Asia, or China’s BRI; as such it ’s would-be-expanded railroad will be crossing the Trans-Siberian Railway, Turksib (Turkestan-Siberia Railway), the Trans-Asian Railway from China to Europe and hence securing the Eurasian Union. The RPEC with Russia’s engagement exploiting Islamabad’s geostrategic location complementing the CPEC, have already got underway.
Read more: Balochistan and its fate in CPEC
Eyeing on Pakistan/ China’s Digital Corridor, Digital CPEC, the Russian Telecom giant, VimpelCom, is consolidating its position in Pakistan. After purchasing Mobilink, it has acquired Warid. Both the brands after the merger would benefit from VimpelCom’s $1 billion investment into building one of the largest and most ambitious IT infrastructures in the industry in Pakistan. The Russian telecom is now about to buy Bank Alfalah. In mid-2017, Russia’s Gazprom International and Pakistan’s Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) reached an understanding to invest in gas exploration, and South/North gas pipeline.
Russia’s access to the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea through the ports of Gwadar or Karachi and further to the Strait of Hormuz makes the shortest route.
There are talks already going on to invite Gazprom to invest on the expansion of Iran-Gas Pipeline into Pakistan. Moscow has inked $10-billion offshore gas pipeline as recently as in June 2018 and Gazprom has launched its feasibility study. Russia wants to export gas by laying this offshore pipeline through Gwadar Port to Pakistan and India, which are seen as alternative markets because Moscow fears it will likely loose energy consumers in Europe over the Crimea issue.
Pakistan and Russian already enjoy robust bilateral defense ties and have forged closed understanding on geopolitical issues like Afghanistan’s reconciliation and Iran’s nuclear deal with the US. At great human and material cost, Pakistan has secured the country by combating terrorism and extremism. Now it is reaping the dividends leveraging its geostrategic and geo-economic location to be the hub of regional connectivity, trade corridors, economic integration, and robust trade diplomacy.
However, Islamabad’s transition– from a failing state to a pivot and to development-oriented regional integration– will be secured by its unwavering commitment and relentless endeavours to unlock the full potential of the CPEC, SPEC, and RPEC. The ball is now in Pakistan’s court.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst and a politician. He served as an advisor to previous Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy