China's West Coast:
superhighway for China's trade expansion in Middle East, Africa and Europe? A point to project Chinese economic and military might westward?
Unlike the continental United States which has coasts on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans allowing it easy access to Europe and Asia, China has only one coast, its East Coast along South China Sea.
As the Americans look to Asia with the US Pivot to Asia and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Chinese are looking to expand westward with Central Asia as well as Africa, Europe and the Middle East with "One Road One Belt" initiative funded by Silk Road Fund and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Pakistan is a crucial partner in this strategy, particularly the development of Pakistan-China Corridor linking China's western region with Gwadar port on the Arabia Sea.
Gwadar Deep Sea Port:
The Chinese see Gwadar deep sea port and the town of Jiwani as Hong Kong West, a gateway to Middle East, Africa and Europe. It will be the most important link in China's Maritime Silk Route (MSR), a sort of superhighway to the West for Chinese trade.
Professor Juan Cole of University of Michigan has aptly described the Chinese strategy as follows:
China’s enormous northwest is much closer to the Arabian Sea than to the port of Shanghai. It is about 2800 km. from Urumqi (pop. 4 million, the size of Los Angeles inside city limits) to Karachi, but twice as far to Shanghai. China has decided to develop its northwest by turning Pakistan into a sort of Hong Kong West. Hong Kong played, and perhaps still plays an important role as a gateway for certain kinds of foreign investment into China. In the same way, Pakistan can be a window on the world and a conduit for oil and trade into northwestern cities such as Urumqi and the smaller Kashgar (pop. 1 mn.)
In addition to a major expansion of the deep sea port, there are plans in place for building a modern city with several skyscrapers, an international airport, highways and industrial parks in Gwadar, Balochistan. There will be air, road and rail links to move people and freight to and from around the world. Oil and gas pipelines are planned to transport energy as well. When completed, it will be comparable to major international port cities of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Baloch insuegency is cited as a key threat to the implementation of the China-Pakistan Corridor in Pakistan. What is often not acknowledged by analysts is the fact that the Baloch insurgency is dying. It's a fact that has recently been described in some detail by Malik Siraj Akbar who is sympathetic to the Baloch separatist cause. Here's what Akbar wrote in December 2014 in a piece titled "The End of Pakistan's Baloch Insurgency?":
"Since its beginning in 2004, the Pakistan's Baloch insurgency is caught up in the worst infighting ever known to the general public. Different left-wing underground armed groups that had been fighting Islamabad for a free Baloch homeland have now started to attack each other's camps......Frustration, suspicion, infighting and division are the common features of the end of a guerrilla fight. Perhaps that time has come in Balochistan. "
|Language Map of Balochistan|
The announcement of the Pak-China deal seems to have re-energized those who seek to hurt Pakistan. They are now trying to resuscitate the dying Baloch insurgency. Western media has widely publicized an interview of Bramdagh Bugti who is running the insurgency from the comfort of a Swiss hotel room. In addition, Pakistan's western-funded NGOs are being used to play up the Baloch insurgency in the media with events like "Un-Silencing Balochistan" event and by blaming the ISI for the murder of Karachi activist Sabeen Mahmud.
The China-Pak Corridor deal could prove to be transformational for Pakistan's economy, prosperity and rising living standards of its nearly 200 million people. As development work moves forward for Gwadar and China-Pakistan Corridor, I fully expect several hostile nations, including neighboring India, to use their proxies on the ground in Balochistan and some members of the "civil society" made up of some foreign-funded NGOs in Pakistan to make progress as difficult as possible. There will be serious efforts by many to resuscitate the dying Baloch insurgency. Pakistani people and both civil and military leaders need to be prepared to deal with these hurdles.
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