China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC), which opens gates for China to enter middle-eastern and in-turn Eurasian markets, also stabilizes Pakistan’s economy. One of the most major assets of CPEC is the Gwadar Port, as it the link between One Best, One Road (OBOR) and Maritime Silk Road projects. Gwadar Port was aimed at linking northern Pakistan and western China, also the deep-water seaport will be a site of a floating liquefied natural gas facility as part of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
Inaugurated by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Gwadar Port started operating on 14th November 2016. Main benefits of Gwadar Port:
- It could act as a port for western China via Karakoram highway
- It could act as a port for the new land-locked central Asian states
- It could enable development of Balochistan
- It would lie on the important sea route through the straits of Hormuz
However, only 72 kilometres away lies New Delhi’s latest bid to flex its economic muscles i.e. Chabahar Port. India signed an agreement with Iran to develop the $500 million Chabahar port. It is currently being seen as a gateway for Indian goods into Central Asia. Both ports pose tangible economic, commercial, and strategic challenges to each other. However, Gwadar possesses the advantage from many angles:
- Though Chabahar is a geographical outreach for India (since it is not in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) where India has many functional ports and the shielf of Indian Navy), it still will be a guest state whose borders and territorial waters are at far away distance.
- The vessels transporting goofs to Chabahar would be subjected to active monitoring by the Pakistani Navy.
- Whereas, Gwadar Port’s control is with China. We need to note here that Iran won’t do the same with India.
- Following Chabahar, Indian goods will land in Afghanistan; following which, suspected outreach towards Central Asian states is possible.
- Even though the two governments of India and Afghanistan share good relations, non-state actors like insurgent groups pose a security threat. For example, the Taliban poses a major threat.
- Gwadar Port is also witnessing security threats since it is in the Balochistan province. Though separatist brawls have decreased in recent years, militant groups still are a major concern.
- Iran is facing sanctions after violating a UN Security Council resolution because it launched a nuclear-capable missile. The sanctions could have negative consequences for the India-Iran Chabahar deal.
- On the other hand, Gwadar has no such problems. There are no restrictions on China’s investment anywhere nor is Pakistan subject to any kind of UN sanctions.
Rivalry Between Partners
- There is absolutely no competition between Pakistan and China. Even, Chinese investment is aimed at boosting trade with the rest of Asia.
- Moreover, Pakistan is currently on the receiving end of the huge Chinese investment, hence it won’t become a hurdle in China’s quest to reach the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
- Whereas, following July 2015 agreement, Iran is trying to come into the mainstream international arena by accelerating trade and it won’t allow India’s Central Asian dream to come true at the cost of Iranian interests.
In the end, both Gwadar port and Chabahar port can assist millions of people. Both the ports can only yield best results when there are no major regional threats. Above all, South Asia needs economic cooperation and integration.