Balochistan is the crux of global politics these days mostly because of its marvelous geo political location and tremendous inherent wealth. Geographically situated at the Arabian Sea, it finds itself the dead-center between trade routes of East Asia and the Middle East. Moreover nature has bestowed vast magnitude of minerals especially the natural gas which is also sometimes regarded as the economic bomb for Pakistan and prodigious amount of other natural resources including oil, uranium, copper and gold etc that worth hundreds of billions of dollars making it one of the world’s potentially richest regions. The completion of Gawadar Port with the assistance of China has also magnificently increased the importance of Balochistan in the eyes of those wanting to keep their hegemony in the region. Pakistan will surely want it to become a major trading port that will compete with Iran’s Chabahar port.
China’s primary motivation for building the port was to create a base that could be used to pump gas through a very long pipeline to China in the north. The United States on the other hand, is quite keen in Gwadar’s deep-sea port, especially as it’s seen as something they could benefit commercially from. US would want Gawadar to become the next Dubai, which could also serve as a strategic base for the United States navy that already runs an airbase in Jacobabad, as well as a commercial port to trade oil, sidelining Iran’s importance within the region.
The United States has been a strong advocate for TAPI, advising Pakistan to initiate the pipeline agreement, which would run an oil pipeline starting in Tajikistan and take it all the way to India. This pipeline would run through Baluchistan, and the United States believes that Baluchistan via Gwadar could be used to transport goods and equipment for their troops stationed primarily in Afghanistan. Pakistan has huge leverage over the United States with the Khyber Pass. Gwadar could potentially give the US an alternative route into south Afghanistan. The United States also runs covert operations in Baluchistan which they have denied against Iran. Even if Baluchistan were to break up from Pakistan, the United States would vigorously push forward in obtaining access to natural resources in the region. However, it is in the United States’ interest that Pakistan remains intact and Baluchistan remains only a province.
For China, Baluchistan’s cessation from Pakistan would be a disaster, especially after all the efforts and funds they have put into Gwadar. Gwadar is exactly what China needs – a route to the Arabian Sea, and another venue capable of supplying the country with oil in an age where there is a growing need for it. Considering China and Russia are already being scrutinized for their reliance on Iranian oil (China does not want to depend on American backed Saudi oil), a supply route straight from an ally is probably the best option for them right now. There is also heavy speculation that the Pentagon worried at the prospect of Gwadar becoming a naval base for the Chinese, especially since this could threaten their supply of oil from the Persian Gulf.
The BLA is also targeting many Chinese workers in Baluchistan, and there is almost no way that Pakistan can effectively guarantee their security without creating more military cantonment’s in the province. Seemingly, China’s best option now is to try and assist Pakistan in creating schools and higher institutions for educating the Baloch. China whole-heartedly believes that Gwadar can overtake Iran’s Chahbar port, and will be welcoming its speedy development.
India is also an interested party and has some nefarious designs of their own in terms of covert operations in Baluchistan firstly because India has really never accepted Pakistan as an independent sovereign nation, and would to go to any extent to disintegrate it once again. Secondly India does not have any natural gas reserves the majority of gas it does export comes from Iran. The completion of the Zaranaj-Delaram highway in southwestern Afghanistan though clearly shows India’s intent in creating better political and economic relations with CARs.
Gwadar also does worry India on a few fronts though. First off, from a military point of view, Gwadar gives Pakistan’s navy a strategic advantage and will arouse as one of several naval bases that are to be set up to create a larger and better-defended presence of the Pakistan navy in the Indian ocean. Secondly, Gwadar is a connecting point to warm water for Pakistan in its attempts to create better relations with CARs. The port-city can also help increase its influence in Afghanistan which is something Pakistan will undoubtedly welcome. Already being a member of the Economic Cooperation Organization since 1985, Pakistan will also want to also increase its economic ties with both Turkey and Iran. Thirdly, China has a significant strategic advantage in Gwadar’s viability, and success will mean trouble for India. India simply does not want China to increase its military and economic ties with Pakistan and barricading any possibilities would be in India’s best interests.
Afghanistan is also contributing its part to Baloch conflict. Since the Taliban have been ousted of power and the Northern Alliance has joined Karzai’s government, it’s only natural for Pakistan to feel more anxious about the happenings on its western borders. Indian officials have been visiting Afghanistan regularly to assist in pumping funds towards insurgency movement in Balochistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur.
Before Iran became an Islamic Republic it had great ties with Pakistan and the rest of the Arab world. However, since the revolution, Pakistan has sided with the United States, and relations have somewhat been strained. Iran has spent a great share of cash on developing the Chabahar port it does not want it to be ignored because of the importance of Gwadar. Both ports are only a hundred miles away from one another, and the last thing Iran probably wants to worry about is their port being isolated especially when a lot of pressure is spewing due to their ongoing nuclear ambitions. Iran is also very interested in the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, which would certainly increase their revenue and also give them more control of their financial affairs. By setting up the pipeline, they will be able to directly trade with their key ally India. Iran will certainly wish for such a conclusion, as a TAPI pipeline will certainly kill their ability to trade with CAR’s and with India and Pakistan.
Whatever it is, Baluchistan will surely be the epicenter of Pakistan’s future, and it can surely revive Pakistan. For a country that virtually has no more room for failure, Pakistan should diligently work towards ensuring that Baluchistan becomes and remains an integral and united province under one country.