TheCPEC is part of China’ efforts meant to strengthen its trade and commerceconnectivity with different regions of world. In September 2013, ChinesePresident Xi Jinping emphasized reviving the ancient trade routes connectingChina, Central Asia and Europe through developing three main corridors throughsouthern, central and northern Xinjiang, which connect China with Russia,Europe and Pakistan (Jia, 2014).Also, the Chinese have recently increased focuson the Bangladesh-China-India Myanmar corridor that would provide China’slandlocked Yunnan province access to the Bay of Bengal (Chowdhury, 2013).While China’s prime focus in constructingtheses corridors seems to strengthen its trade and economic connectivity withcountries in the region and beyond primarily to fulfill its soaring energyneeds and enhance exports, it is expected that Pakistan could emerge as a hubof commerce and trade in the region with the construction of the CPEC thatwould entail establishing several economic and industrial zones and physicalroad and railway links connecting Pakistan and China.
As the corridor alsoanticipates having regional connectivity with India and Afghanistan–although itis still too early to comment whether regional element of the CPEC will becomeoperational or not–it could also enhance regional economic and tradecooperation, that in turn would contribute towards regional peace andstability.Gwadar holds central place in the utility ofthe China-Pakistan Economic Corridor because without making the Gwadar Portfully functional, it would be difficult for China to see the anticipatedcorridor as an energy corridor that appears as one of its main objectivesbehind the construction of the CPEC. Located near the Strait of Hormuz, whichchannels about one third of the world’s oil trade, Gwadar could play a key rolein ensuring China’s energy security as it provides a much shorter route thanthe current 12,900km route from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Malaccato China’s eastern seaboard (Chowdhury, 2014).However, there is the view that theconstruction of the CPEC will ‘place Gwadar on the matrix of intense geo-strategiccompetition’ (CPGS, 2014). It has been said that Gwadar will also put China andPakistan in a strategically advantageous position along the Arabian Seacompounding already existing Indian concerns that stem from ‘China’sinvolvement in nearby ports such as Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Sittwe in Myanmarand Chittagong in Bangladesh’ (Chowdhury, 2014). One the other hand as India isalso energy hungry it looks forwards to developing Iran’s Chabahar Port. InOctober 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet decided to developChabahar Port, which many believe is central for India to open up a route tolandlocked Afghanistan, where it has developed close security ties and economicinterests (Dawn,2014a), and to have access to energy-richCentral Asian States.While Gwadar is located in Pakistan’sBalochistan province, where a nationalist insurgency is rife, Chabahar islocated in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan where unrest prevails aswell mainly due to certain violent Sunni sectarian-nationalist groups operatingin the district.
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If peace and stability is not achieved in Afghanistan afterthe drawdown of international assistance forces, and countries in the region,The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor mainly India, Pakistan and Iran, engage inproxy wars, it could have some implications for internal security mainly forPakistan, Afghanistan and Iran that could impact development projects. Pakistanhas blamed India in the past for supporting Baloch insurgents from Afghan soil.Similarly, Iran has concerns regarding Jundullah–a sectarian insurgent groupbased and operating in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province with freecross-border movement into and from Pakistan.
But analysts argue that whilePakistan has struggled to achieve security in Balochistan, Iran has thecapacity to enforce its writ in Sistan-Baluchistan that suggests Chabahar couldbecome functional earlier than Gwadar, if pursued by India and Iran fervently.Nonetheless, China has devised a pro-activeforeign policy vis-à-vis the Middle Eastern countries by using the UnitedNations as a platform to negate the ongoing war in the region (CPGS, 2014). Asfar as Iran is concerned, China wishes to resolve the Iranian nuclear issuethrough peaceful political settlement.Moreover, when it comes to ties betweenPakistan and India, China has played its part (Ibid).
At the same time, forChina, Pakistan’s geo-strategic position is very crucial as it serves as awindow into the Middle East. Meanwhile, it has already expanded its trade,infrastructure and energy links with most of the Central Asian Republicans(Pakistan-China Institute, 2014). But insecurity and instability in Afghanistanare a major source of concern not only for China but also other neighboringcountries including Pakistan, India and Iran. China is already the biggesteconomic investor in Afghanistan with about $7.5 billion investment(Ibid). China has recently enhanced bilateraland trilateral efforts aimed at strengthening regional cooperation andcoordination.
It hosted the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Heart ofAsia-Istanbul Process Beijing on October 31, 2014 with a view to promotesecurity and stability in the Afghanistan, in cooperation with its neighbors(Arif, 2014). China has also pushed the matter of Afghanistan’s future afterthe drawdown withdrawal to the top of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’sagenda (Pakistan-China Institute, 2014).