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Pakistan’s Strategic Move at Chabahar Inauguration

When the world witnessed the historic launch of India’s ambitious Chabahar Port project, what was most noteworthy was Pakistan’s strategic moves towards India.

With all the dignitaries present at the launch, Pakistan had sent its minister for Maritime Affairs Mir Hasil Bizenjo to the inauguration ceremony as a goodwill gesture.

As per reports from a few Pakistani media organizations, the country has apparently buried the hatchets with New Delhi, when it comes to trade routes in Central Asia and has called Chabahar Port as a sister port to Gwadar.

“Our region has a huge economic potential. Gwadar port alone would not be able to meet the trade volume of the region in the near future. Therefore, Chabahar would supplement Gwadar port,” Pakistan Today reported quoting a senior Ministry Official.

A CPEC (China Pak Economic Corridor) expert has told the newspaper that given the proximity of both Chabahar and Gawdar they have the potential to be sister-ports as a part of Belt and Road initiative of the Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

“There is no denying the fact that our region has a huge economic potential and Gwadar port alone would not be able to meet the trade volume of the region in the near future. Therefore, Chabahar would definitely supplement Gwadar port,” Pakistan Observer has reported.  

India on the other hand has been strongly opposing China’s CPEC  and has been looking for alternative trade routes to Central Asia bypassing Pakistan.

It is widely speculated that India’s only reluctance to join OBOR (One Border One Road) is mainly because it violates India’s sovereignty as it covers the POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) region. Experts have warned India that it might isolate itself if it doesn’t be a part of the project. As most of India’s neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have joined already.

CPEC is a flagship initiative of China’s OBOR which aims to envisage the construction of a maze of road, rail and port projects through 67 countries to connect China to markets in Central Asia and Europe. With the current situation all India’s bets are placed on Chabahar. But the stakes are really high. This is India’s first time experience into a foreign port development with such a vigor.

With proximity to Gwadar Port, Chabahar will be a subject of constant monitoring by the Pakistani Navy. And the geographical distance from Indian ports will be a disadvantage.

While Pakistan is in its safe play zone as it has no threats from China.  Gawdar port is not only developed by China, which is an experienced player in port game but also add to the fact that Pakistan has given full control of the port to China.

This won’t be the same in case of Iran, judging by the agreements signed in 2015. Tehran will try level best to serve Indian interests but never at the cost of its own.

Afghanistan has always taken a neutral stance on the issue. When asked if CPEC is a threat to North South Transport Corridor. In an earlier interview with BW Businessworld, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India Dr Shaida Abdali had said, “Afghanistan believes in connectivity. We are just looking for win-win situations for the entire region. We should not be stopping any kind of economic initiative by any other country.”

At this point of time when Chabahar will still take a year to be fully functional India’s primary need is to speed up its own infrastructure projects and find ways to strengthen its sphere of influence. Decoding political ally’s and enemies could be dangerous.

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