Strategic Dimensions of CPEC

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China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is deemed to be “the game changer” not only for Pakistan and China but for the whole region. Political landscape of the region has both economic and strategic dimensions of CPEC associated with the power structure in the twenty first century. India and China both have troubled pasts and are prime competitors in contemporary politics whereas Pakistan is stuck in a power cycle structure. 

Beside massive economic activity, the project has definite strategic dimensions of CPEC effecting primarily in the region. One of major strategic dimensions of CPEC is related to the threat perception matrix in South Asia. Magnification of Chinese stakes in Pakistan contends for greater stability in the region denying strategic space to India. India would need to adhere to the emerging new trends in geopolitics restricting it to maneuver on strategic chess board. Outstanding conflicts in South Asia would achieve new dynamism putting many nations in uncomfortable situation. The conflict resolution scenario in the region would also be affected greatly with the politico-economic significance of the project.

Global Strategic Dimensions of CPEC

China – A Challenge to Unilateralism 

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Zhou Gang, has done structural analysis by terming Pakistan China cooperation as a means of guarding against international hegemony and unilateralism. He said,

China and Pakistan must guard against hegemony and unilateralism, and safeguard their own sovereignty and security interests. They must learn the lesson of turbulences from West Asia and North Africa, firmly safeguard their domestic security and stability, steadily promote their reform, and oppose the interference of foreign forces in their internal affairs.

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (4)China is fostering its influence in Indian Ocean by strengthening its naval power and the Silk Road and Belt project in order to safeguard its energy security, defense water channels, economic sustenance and stability.

China has tied its future to these corridors in which Pakistan‘s geo-strategic location is central. This equation requires greater stability in the region for the successful execution of Chinese idea of international relations.

Shift in World’s Strategic Center of Gravity

As the world’s strategic center of gravity shifts from the Euro-Atlantic region to the Indian Ocean as Kaplan argues:-

The Indian Ocean is where global struggles will be played out in the 21st century.

China has emerged as a major power in the non communist world with a magnitude that has not only surpassed many power but also changed the dynamics of traditional international relations. Major powers didn‘t resort to the orthodox strategies of containment instead endorsed the status of China. Dealing with internal challenges of politics it has created stakes for world in it. Utilizing both geographic and demographic mass China translating into mega economic success it has convinced the world over its Authoritarian one party rule. Defining itself as a power pursuing peaceful rise‘ China is facing great challenges of sustainability of its society and economy

By passing China’s  Strategic Bottle Necks

To overcome this challenge and achieve peaceful rise China views harmonious world in form of greater economic integration and interdependence. ―China is developing its navy at a great rate. Its ambitions in the Indian Ocean are quite clear. He identified responding to China‘s ―aggressive modernization plans—along with safeguarding energy security, protecting sea lanes

One more Strategic Dimensions of CPEC is that it aims to connect China across Central Asia and Russia to Europe and link to the 21st century Maritime Silk Road through the Malacca Strait to India, the Middle East stretching to East Africa. The belt is supposed to work as a new logistics channel between China and the world. This new rout will bypass vulnerabilities in China’s Maritime ambitions i.e. American bases in south China sea and Dilemma of Malacca, which is the only weakness in China’s maritime strategic policy.

Malacca Dilemma - China Pakistan Economic Corridor ( CPEC)

The project of corridors the silk road and belt project is deemed as greater breathing space for china contending these challenges of economic sustenance and stability. China has tied its future to these corridors in which Pakistan‘s geo-strategic location is central.

First Chinese Overseas Military Base

China is establishing a overseas military base in Obock, Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa to secure Chinese trade routes to Africa and, perhaps, Africa itself. Chinese pace of construction is very fast and we can expect them to complete and start the base very soon. CPEC will enhance and support any kind of operations for China in Africa and to have firm foot holds.

strategic dimensions of CPECRegional Strategic Dimensions of CPEC

Regional strategic dimensions has emerged as the most complex milieu in 21st century regarding the scenarios of conflict, conflict management and security dilemma. Region is host to three nuclear weapon states while fourth is in the offing. It is standing at the historical, political and strategic cross roads of both Asia and Middle East. Age old territorial conflicts play important role in the strategic calculus of the region. Robert Kaplan, US geo-strategist in his work stated:

The greater Indian Ocean, stretching eastward from the Horn of Africa past the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau and the South Asian region, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one. It is an area which will be the true nexus of world powers confrontation in the coming years. It is also volatile and has a recognizable geography which already forms center stage for the challenges of the twenty-first century world’s ocean water politics.

The strategic competition in the region has evolved into politico-economic strife between the regional heavy weights. From strings of pearls to economic corridors, and from cold start to hot pursuit, these drivers of both stability and hegemony are shaping the geo strategic landscape of the region.

Indian Ocean

The politics goes beyond the region because Indian Ocean is important for the globe. It is a dangerous flash point of global significance which has changed the character of international politics due to strategic, economic, and commercial value of the world. At this juncture of history, the interests of USA, India, and China converge and diverge in Indian Ocean. The key actors, the dominant, the competitors, all are entangled in the game of achieving and defending national interests.

As the world’s strategic center of gravity shifts from the Euro-Atlantic region to the Indian Ocean as Kaplan argues:-

The Indian Ocean is where global struggles will be played out in the 21st century.

India

One of the strategic dimensions of CPEC is that India is facing challenges at regional front with a pugnacious Pakistan countering its influence and a stable recognized major power China while considering the project of corridor as strategic weakness. This scenario has emerged as a great concern for strategic environment of India as China is developing multiple ports in the Indian ocean, building a naval base in Burma, and doing wise investment in East Africa securing major interests of raw materials and natural resources.

With china emerging as a major power in recent times, India is forging alliance with United States signing land mark nuclear cooperation agreement.

Lately it has embarked upon a path of development achieving high GDP, effective soft power and viable economic alliances across the globe. Eying permanent seat in UN Security Council and major power status in the global politics.

India has been sailing through difficult waters facing the strategic alliance between China and Pakistan while also dreaming to become a major power.  It is significant that 90 percent of Chinese arms sales are to Indian Ocean littoral countries, which also, as it happens, virtually surround India on three sides.

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (5)The space for India is less and unfavorable for it would be pushed to compromise its influence and growth trajectory. China with help from system will compel India to adhere to the new emergent order in the region which is deemed as integral part of its plan for the establishment of new world order inspired by Beijing Consensus.

Iran

The patterns of alliance in the region further complicates the security environment with Iran pursuing a nuclear program, building Chabahar port with Indian help posing a Shiite political challenge to the Wahabi regime of Saudi Arabia which has alliance with Pakistan building Gawader with Chinese help.

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (7)Middle East

Conflicts in Middle East have bearing in the region. Military power stays important in the regional and global politics, socio-economic interaction and regional cooperation will gain greater salience.  The region has massive potential in various resources the geographical space contains 62 per cent of the worlds proven oil reserves, 35 per cent of its gas, 40 per cent of its gold, 60 per cent of its uranium, and 80 per cent of its diamonds

State Level Strategic Dimensions of CPEC

Change in Indo-centric foreign policy

Pakistan an unfortunate state that inherited a hostile neighbor and a complex territorial conflict has been facing various political, strategic and economic challenges since its inception. The challenges have often been translated as existential threats at crossroads of our history; particularly when the episode of 1971 happened, the state apparatus found its primary focus in the security and defense. Cold war politics has kept Pakistan on its toes in the global politics while the advent of nuclear weapons in 1970‘s has cornered it in the region while contesting not only for a substantial role but also security imperatives shaped its peculiar Indo-centric foreign policy. It embarked upon nuclear path while fighting against soviets and strengthened its alliance with China.One of the many strategic dimensions of CPEC is that now Pakistan will be relevant globally and will be able to handle India in far better way. 

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (8)Sino-Pakistan relations

Relationship with China has always been considered as the cornerstone of foreign policy expecting it to play a role of balancer in the region. The partnership has got matured in 21st century in form of great strategic and economic ties mutually beneficial to both parties, the latest development is this significant project of economic corridors taking a great leap forward in the bilateral relations and what is deemed as game changer for Pakistan particularly in the region and generally in the globe. Sino-Pakistan relations have always undergone an upward path.

In 2010, the two countries signed a deal of two new nuclear reactors to be installed in Karachi. Moreover, there are claims that People‘s Liberation Army has a presence in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan which instigate Indians to face the reality of a Chinese presence on both the eastern and western sides of the unstable Kashmir region. 

Stable Economy

Unfortunately Pakistan is neighbor of a very hostile country, which has larger economy and can afford huge defence budget as compared to Pakistan. By this game changer, Pakistan will be more stable economically. Economically strong Pakistan is making India uncomfortable. Economically strong Pakistan will counter India at every forum globally.

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (11)Naval Power Balance 

Pakistan and Indian Naval power comparison shows that Pakistan is quite half of the Indian Naval Power. One of the strategic dimensions of CPEC is also that it would directly involve China a stake holder in case of any threat to Pakistani ports, which would help Pakistan to counter this imbalance. Shifting of three Chinese warship docks is depicts the same dimension

Strategic Dimensions of CPEC (12)Conclusion

The stakes for India Pakistan and China in the politics of Indian Ocean for strategy and economics are very high and the strategic equation is very complex for any kind of convergence. China has clearly shown its cards by announcing its new silk route’s one belt one road policy. Pakistan is utilizing the golden opportunity it got to change its fate and status in the region forever. The pace of implementation of strings of Pearls policy with the initiation of CPEC has changed the dynamics of the region which is facing fate of economic and strategic rise of major powers along with age old territorial conflicts that too under the umbrella of nuclear deterrence.