The potential to become a transit economy

Pakistan’s geostrategic significance cannot be ignored

After the Cold War a shift is observed in the world politics and system. But the primary actor in the international system is still the state because all the activities of world politics and affairs revolve around it. To ensure its survival and security a state enhances influence and control over its neighbours and region through economic activities and military equipment.

Today these activities and measures are creating a highly complicated situation. The new trends of economic activities, mutual trade and the access to resources like coal, oil, gas, and coal as well as to control geo -economic instruments are being introduced.

The physical entrances into a certain region or state are referred to as routes, which are both a topographical and a tactical concept. The domestic growth impacts by routes or in areas of security and development. Routes are also a key instrument for revealing the qualitative relationships between the states and for providing open doors to greater economic efficiency, safety, rural growth, and access to urban or international markets. Having easy access to markets is the most important of all these benefits since without it, a state cannot maintain its economic and commercial events.

The boundaries of Pakistan, particularly the province of Baluchistan, have historically been crucial for gaining control of influence, pursuing development, and attracting attention from the globe. In the contemporary world, the position of Gwadar is highly appealing to regional and global powers who are interested in the South, West, and Asia from a strategic and economic standpoint. Gwadar lies at the entrance to the Persian Gulf in the south while being adjacent to the Chinese region of Xinjiang in the north. The proximity of its harbour to the Hormuz Strait, a route for nearly 17 million barrels of oil per day, makes it the ideal location between three important regions: South Asia, the Persian Gulf (rich in oil), and Central Asia (resource-rich in oil and gas), which further increases its strategic value.

Moreover, powerful states like China, United States, Russia and regional states are willing in extending economic dominance in this region due to its terrestrial and strategic value. Gwadar stands out in the global maritime scene as an alternative to Dubai (beyond the Strait of Hormuz’s choke point and shallow seas), due to its closeness to important SLOCs and its importance to the new great game as a member of the so-called String of Pearls.

Furthermore, without comprehensive planning and infrastructure for international trade and transportation, it is almost impossible to achieve the benefits of our transit routes. On the international level, Pakistan, being a littoral state, must develop its positive relations with the rest of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. Rigorous efforts to meet international maritime standards will further add up in our efforts in becoming a transit economy.

China is Pakistan’s main partner in commerce, investment, and defence relations. CPEC, the centrepiece project of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative, is being vigorously pursued as it moves forward with economic projects in the area. China has an alternative for the Strait of Malacca because of Gwadar, which shows that all the participating nations may benefit strategically from using the coastlines of Gwadar and Makran owing to the access to the coastline that can provide economic and strategic goals in the region. It can increase access across the Hormuz Straits and the northern Indian Ocean, enabling admission to marine channels for China.

Furthermore, in comparison to Iran (4500 km) and Turkey (5000 km), Pakistan gives the CARs the quickest land route (2600 km via Afghanistan) to the Arabian Sea for trade. Additionally, the CPEC route has been operating since 2004 under a Quadrilateral Trade Agreement between China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. It also extends to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. TKPI (Termez, Kabul, Peshawar, Islamabad) is an alternative project to TAPI with a length of 750 km (almost half of TAPI: 1700 km) to reach Islamabad

The majority of Afghan trade, which includes everyday necessities and critical foods, passes through Pakistan. After US and NATO withdrawal, Pakistan would unavoidably need help throughout the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase of Afghanistan. Pakistan continues to be the most practical choice for regional connection with Afghanistan, notwithstanding Indian investment or desire for alternatives like Chabahar Port of Iran.

The geopolitical interests of the main countries converge in Pakistan. Two Muslim and two non-Muslim states are positioned on either side of a vast body of water. It is situated between three nuclear-armed states and also possesses nuclear weapons of its own. Due to its geostrategic and geopolitical significance, it has been and continues to be the focus of the desires of the great powers. According to academics, the benefits of the 21st century economic progress are being felt throughout the Asian continent. The Asian continent may benefit from this evolution in terms of both affluence and the scope of power. However, some academics also assert that political instability and personal vendettas are promoted by economic development slogans. Political unrest results from economic growth because it disturbs the regional and international power dynamics.

Stephen Cohen rightly stated that Pakistan’s geography has been its greatest benefit. Owing to the fact that Pakistan can gain extreme economic benefits by utilizing its geographic location intelligently, however, Pakistan is facing internal and external security issues that give rise to a less productive economic environment for neighbourhood states and superpowers. The government’s role to deal with internal stability issues related to terrorism and insurgency, specifically in Balochistan and in the north of Pakistan, is crucial.

Furthermore, without comprehensive planning and infrastructure for international trade and transportation, it is almost impossible to achieve the benefits of our transit routes. On the international level, Pakistan, being a littoral state, must develop its positive relations with the rest of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. Rigorous efforts to meet international maritime standards will further add up in our efforts in becoming a transit economy.

Gul Ayesha Bhatti
Gul Ayesha Bhatti
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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