Gwadar-Chabhar connectivity to strengthen regional cooperation under CPEC

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Gwadar-Chabhar Ports
by Dr. Muhammad Naeem Javed

Gawadar and Chabhar have grown with an incredible position and a remarkable geo strategic location among rising Asian states China, India, Pakistan and Iran. Gwadar port, located in Pakistan (Balochistan), is being managed by China under CPEC, while Chabhar port is located in Iran and is funded by India under PTA agreement. Both the ports are located at the international routes and linked with Central Asian states, Africa, Middle East and Europe.

New changing aspects among countries are evolving as regional connectivity. The capitalist environment and financial costs have put the potential of competition between Gawadar and Chabhar but Pakistan and Iran have denied such contention and are clearly focusing on the linkage and cooperation between the two ports. Currently, the global world is moving towards multifarious inter-reliant collaborations; this would ultimately result in competing for energy resources. Whereas, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a huge determinant of regional connectivity, progress and strength of many states as its prospects are much wider.

Internationally, shipping and trading industries are considered as vibrant elements for any state’s economy. The magnitude of a port and its significance can be gauged from the fact that Karachi shipping port contributes 50% GDP of Pakistan. The financial activities made at seaports trickle-down to the whole country; particularly adjacent parts which earn the remunerations. Utmost essentially, Asian markets’ conversions have attracted world’s attention towards Asia. In this perspective, South Asia has a pivotal role to play as a large consumer market and has a vast growing prospective.

The growth of Gwadar seaport is really a blessing for the people of Makran (Balochistan) and its assistances will be extensive. Equally, about 70 km to its west, Chabhar seaport in Iran is an impending contestant to Gwadar seaport. If we talk about the salient features of both ports, Gwadar is an all-weather and deep-sea port with ideal location linked with transhipment services as compared to Chabhar. Gwadar has more capacity to deal with dry cargo and its outreach is much more broadened than Chabahar. Both these ports are positioned at intersections of energy trading routes and over 70 % world’s oil cargo shipment passes through them. In addition, Gwadar and Chabahar are posts to beautiful minerals in Iran and Pakistan. Existing structure in Gwadar is much up to date and advanced for handling liquefied and containers’ shipment. It helps Pakistan in linking with five rich, vibrant and resourceful parts of the globe; China, South Asian States, Central Asian region, Gulf States and Iran. Gwadar seaport is rented by China from Pakistan under the CPEC plan for 40 years. Chabhar is established with India’s support however, its mechanism and operating control has remained in the hands of Iran.

Currently, there is a general perception that Gwadar is directed on the way to Africa and Middle East, while Chabhar has flea market in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Both these ports have significant features and importance and in this regard CPEC plays a regional connectivity and leading role in the whole regions. China and Pakistan are friendly and strategically allied and China is hosting the flagship project of CPEC and BRI. This Sino-Pak (CPEC) projects are game-changer for Pakistan, Iran and China and also regional mediators.

Pakistan and Iran share a friendly but compound mutual relationship. Even though, both states share the same religion but mutual relationships have changed after 1979. It is mostly due to Pakistan’s state adjacent relationships with Saudi Arabia. The sectarian split amid the two states has involved the Middle East in a Cold War like circumstances.

Both the countries have some agreeing points too. Iran fully supports the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Iran also strongly supports Pakistan on its nuclear program. Iran also favours Pakistani point of view that India is starting a competition of weapons in the region. Pakistan must intensify trades and cargo with China, Afghanistan and Iran. These states have remarkable cultural, language and social relations with one another. An intensification in Pak-Iran trade will facilitate the Iranian towns to arise as a sustainable marketplace for imports formed in Gwadar Free Zone. In the beginning, trade with Iran will be constrained owing to US economic sanctions but after Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal these sanctions will be removed.

Gawadar, Chabhar and CPEC: A Regional Connectivity

The Sino-Pak (CPEC) is a North-South shipping and trading economic corridor, as it is focusing on an infrastructural progress and industrialised expansion. It is connecting Pakistan and China with their eastern and western neighbours. Gwadar- Chabhar and CPEC would also allow the business community in Pakistan and China to tap and boost its market in Iran, India, Afghanistan, Gulf and Central Asian States. In this context, a regional cooperation in the frameworks of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) connects South Asian States. It can remove trade barriers, develop link-roads and railway linkages and boost up trade and consequently, it may lead to a regional economic collaboration. Moreover, Gwadar and Chabhar can strengthen bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Iran and enhance trading framework with European trade union and with ECO. In comparison with other organisation, or other trading corporations, the magnitude of Gawadar-Chabhar and mighty CPEC is much larger trade agreement with vast outputs. Likewise, Gawadar- Chabhar ports are both concerned with diverse marketplaces and cannot be paralleled on equal footings. On Chabhar port, Indian states have invested a large amount of money for their own personal benefits. Gwadar and Chabhar ports are very significant for the whole region. Iran is an independent state and in the past it has a history of strained relations with India, China, Western states and the US. So, it would not let Gwadar-Chabhar be used for other objective, particularly if they are counter-productive to its dealings with Pak-China. Equally, Pakistani management would not hunt a hostile rivalry with Iran on Chabhar port. The geo strategic coalitions indicate that focus has been moved towards Asia. They further indicate that it would have extensive implications for South Asian regions. In this context, the Sino-Pak (CPEC) economic corridor has been characterised as a game changing project. These two ports of Gwadar and Chabahar offer a channel to the CARs for the exports of their energies. Besides, Iran and Pakistan have momentous traditional bonds with CARs. Conversely, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have essential linkages in this equivalence. Currently, regional connectivity is very much aiming at the CPEC and the advancements in Gwadar-Chabhar and CPEC projects are quite impressive. The world is now moving towards complex interdependency and cooperation that will eventually result in competition for energy resources.

To conclude, it is affirmed that collaborations among Pakistan’s Gwadar, Iran’s Chabhar and CPEC would enhance and promote regional connectivity among Pakistan, Iran and China. In the flagship platform of CPEC; Chabhar-Gwadar connectivity would promote regional peace, cooperation, geo strategic relations, and political assimilation in the whole region. Pakistan, Iran and China must have to develop strong relations for the proper utilization of CPEC and for this it is vital to promote ports and shipping security cooperation among one another.

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