China’s most significant outreach to Iran was long in coming but like all strategic decisions by China it is well considered, well timed and calibrated for maximum geo-political impact. This is truly a milestone in regional policy evolution with implications not just for Iran and China but also for Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and the Central Asian states. It creates exploitable opportunities.
This event needs to be linked to the nearing end game in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s decision to implement the Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and Iran’s decision to oust India from the Chahbahar port project. India by opting out of the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline Project has been the main hurdle in the development of an East-West Trade Corridor that could have changed the economic landscape if linked to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that India was invited to join; which it not only declined but has been actively opposing and undermining through covert activities in Pakistan. The earlier terror attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, the recent attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), in which China has an equity stake, and the most recent terror attacks on Pakistan’s security forces in Waziristan and Baluchistan are examples of such activities. In the backdrop is the arrest of India’s terror controller the Indian Navy officer Kulbushan Yadav who misused India’s presence in Chahbahar Port blatantly disregarding Indian-Iran bilateral relations.
There are several catalysts for the Chinese move to Iran with a whopping US$400 Billion package:
India’s tail wagging approach to the US. The US efforts to drag India into its China containment policy and the potential conflict in the South China Sea. The Indian perception of its strategic relationship with the US that has led it into major strategic miscalculations. The decision to annex the disputed Indian Held Kashmir and Ladakh with irresponsible utterances about Aksai Chin under Chinese control and about Azad Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan that are part of Pakistan. The ongoing Sino Indian conflict along the Line of Actual Control because of Indian activities in the area and India’s repeated violations along the Line of Control in Kashmir to distract attention from the repressive atrocities being committed on the Kashmiris’ and on Indian Muslims. Besides the problems with China and Pakistan, Nepal has asserted itself and Bangladesh is almost enslaved by Indian hegemony.
India’s secular democracy image has been severely eroded because of Mr. Modi’s divisive and repressive internal policies, against its 200 million Muslim population, that are being internationally criticized. India’s military strategy remains hostage to political considerations. In spite of being a giant geographic aircraft carrier jutting into the Indian Ocean India has failed to develop into a major maritime power having lacked a cohesive maritime strategy. India’s obsession with Pakistan and now China, drags it into a Continental land strategy where it has suffered many humiliations and failures—most recently in Aksai Chin and earlier after the Pulwama debacle. Political rhetoric glosses over these setbacks but there are voices within India calling for a review. Most devastating has been the impact of the Covid virus on the socio-economic situation that needs to be addressed. Economic considerations and compulsions may make India review its policies
There are opportunities for Pakistan. Avoiding conflict Pakistan needs to focus on developing economic, political and military strength. Pakistan needs to have a proactive policy to strengthen relations with Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States. The economy has to be the major focus as this has implications for the people, who should be the center of gravity in a political dispensation.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)