The largest province, Balochistan, has once again taken centre stage in the global and regional geopolitical landscape. From the discovery of natural minerals, gas and other resources to the construction of the world’s largest deep-sea port, Gwadar, Balochistan has captured the attention of Pakistan’s friends and foes alike.
The Gwadar Port was visualised in 2013. However, in 2015, the province’s fate began to change with an investment of 1.62 billion in development projects. In 2016, China Overseas Port Holdings Company became the lead for developing the infrastructure with projects worth $2 billion. To date, China has invested a staggering $87 billion in Gwadar and CPEC projects. Acting as a critical link between the $62 billion worth CPEC and the $5 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gwadar has, undoubtedly, become the lifeline for Pakistan.
The economic impact of a booming and blossoming Balochistan is magnanimous for Pakistan, China and its allies, who seek to benefit from the project. Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Wang Wenbin confirmed a list of 140 trading partners for the BRI, indicating this project’s huge global potential. According to experts, the trading volume between China and the BRI countries has already exceeded $9.2 trillion with a direct investment of $130 billion.
Envisioned to be “Asia’s busiest trading hub” by 2023 and with an annual growth of 2.5 per cent, Gwadar is expected to attract more than 50,000 professionals. With investment opportunities attracting global businesses and investors, Saudi Arabia recently announced to invest in an oil refinery project in Gwadar worth $10 billion. The project will also make Pakistan self-sufficient in electricity while allowing the country to Special Economic Zones across the country, promoting Small and Medium Enterprises, Geographical Indication (GI) tagged products and more. Also, with the recent interest of Chinese business in Pakistan’s under-utilised gemstones industry, the industry may be able to achieve its potential export target of $5 billion. Analysing the economic potential of the CPEC projects for Pakistan unveils many reasons why anti-Pakistan elements would want to sabotage the project.
China’s offer of $31 million is the first step towards converting the Pak-China-Russia troika into a more solidified quad with Afghanistan.
However, there has been consistent unrest in the Balochistan region, and the situation has remained unchanged over the years. If we look back into the time, we realise that the destabilisation of Balochistan has always been one of the most important agendas in the list of anti-Pakistan countries’ list. India has particularly been promoting the false cause of Baloch Liberation. In 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Independence Day sent shockwaves across the country when he confidently said, “People of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK have thanked me a lot in past few days, I am grateful to them.” This was a clear indication of Indian involvement in Balochistan and a stark reminder of Modi following Indra Gandhi’s footsteps.
As China and Pakistan work effectively to bring regional peace and prosperity in the region, India is-foolishly-undermining the stability of the region. Still, it will ultimately weaken its importance as a US ally. Also, with the new development in Afghanistan, the Indian government and think tanks are on an edge and definitely in a state of panic. After all, with a financial loss of over $3 billion, a total strategic failure, a weakened nexus between RAW, TTP and after a broken Afghan Intelligence, our arch-enemy will resort to desperate measures.
As Afghanistan becomes a hub for influence, China, Turkey and Russia have begun showing their cards. China’s recent offer of $31 million is not just pitied money. It is the first step towards strengthening the regional alliance and converting the Pak-China-Russia troika into a more solidified quad with Afghanistan’s addition into it. Also, the One Belt One Road Initiative is heavily reliant on the sustained stability of Afghanistan. While Turkey’s offer to extend airport security was certainly without reason, the country has much to gain from the mineral-rich state. Russian think tanks have put the bitter Afghan history behind and moved ahead in the name of economic gains as it aligns its interests with Pakistan and China.
In the face of all of these, India has fallen back to its old and rotten strategies as its media begins the propaganda of “fear of suspected terror attacks” with the arrival of the Taliban regime. All of which points directly back to the importance of Balochistan and how India will attempt to manipulate it to its benefit. The FATF’s decision against Pakistan, the EU voicing its concern about Pakistan’s alignment with terrorist elements, and the Twitter trending with #SanctionPakistan is simply the beginning of a much more sinister Indian plan-one that the Pakistan security officials and the intelligence think tanks will have to monitor much closer.
As I said earlier, the next six months are critical, requiring “Balochistan under the microscope.”
The writer is Special Advisor (Pakistan Institute of Management) and Foreign Research Associate (Centre of Excellence, China Pakistan Economic Corridor). He can be reached at hassnain.javedhotmail.com