CPEC Geopolitical Challenges

There is a bigger challenge for Pakistan that may eventually lead to a greater difficulty, for example, how the United States is going to act in the region in future? In this context, one should not forget that the United States had earlier blocked the construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to energy-starved India through Pakistan. Even after striking the nuclear deal with Iran, USA still does not have a complete and clear policy.

On the other hand, Iran has already completed the gas pipeline from its Pars gas field up to the Pakistani border and the construction from the Iranian border to Gwadar has already started. Meanwhile after signing a civilian nuclear deal with USA, India pulled out to show a renewed interest in trans-Pakistan Iranian gas via sea.

The idea of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline came later with the support of the USA because it will provide an alternate route to the Central Asian Gas. It would no longer be necessary for the Central Asian Republics (CARs) to depend on the existing Russian pipelines that carry the gas to the Russian ports on the Black Sea. Furthermore, TAPI could satisfy gas thirst of the India and Pakistan, without the involvement of Iran. Currently, TAPI is in its initial phases of design and may not be completed even until 2020 due to the security problem that looms over TAPI in Afghanistan. After originating from the Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, TAPI will follow the Herat-Kandahar road and then enter Pakistan through the Bolan Pass in Baluchistan. It will enter in India at Fazilka border crossing with Pakistan. Safety of TAPI is a cause of concern in restive southern Afghanistan, as NATO troops have largely departed from Afghanistan.

The idea of building mega projects through Baluchistan is not new. In the 90's an earlier American project, in which the oil and gas would have been transported by a pipeline from the oil-rich Central Asian Republics (CARs), through Afghanistan and Pakistani Baluchistan was dropped due to the security issues. It shows the pivotal role of Baluchistan in the overall economy and the national interest of Pakistan as times have changed, and Pakistan is looking to improve a lot of its largest province.

Prime Minister of Pakistan; Nawaz Sharif is determined on improving the economy of Pakistan and Baluchistan in particular. The USA has quietly left Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and Taliban terror appears to decline after Pakistani military action. He has limited choice to look to China, in the context of India's intentions and the confusing policy of the USA about the region. The United States has been ignoring Pakistani issues while dragging along the European Union in its pursuit of the Iranians nuclear issue.

Business minded Nawaz Sharif wants his country to become the new Asian tiger and sincerely making efforts to make peace with India. With the Kashmir issue being stagnant since 1947 which caused the two neighbors of multiple wars in the last century. Both the country have realized that this is not the way to prosperity and old distributes need to be resolved. While the politician has to limit the extremist both in India and Pakistan, as most of the population understands that the status quo in Kashmir is suitable, and trade across the border is in the interests of both sides. No one wants a war that could bring the region to the nuclear brink. Despite the fact India's conventional forces are superior to Pakistan, in retaliation Pakistan would have no choice but to use its nuclear arsenal, and nobody wants that for the region and the world. Not only due to its regional implication but also its environmental problems that a nuclear exchange will cause to the planet.

Therefore, the skeptics should pursue a peace-making course in the region and even offer help to Pakistan's efforts to improve its infrastructure. An economically stable Pakistan perhaps will contribute to dilute the impact of the Taliban on the Afghan border, gratify the grievances of the Baluch and enable both Pakistan and India to start a multi-billion trade with each other. Western and American absolute fixation on Iran is counterproductive, and a prosperous Pakistan and, therefore, CPEC is in everyone's interest.