Balochistan is a golden bird for Pakistan due to its vital geostrategic location, which makes it imperative not just for the country but the entire region. It borders Iran and Afghanistan and is open to warm waters of Arabian Sea along with possessing the world’s deepest sea-port Gwadar, which is in proximity to the Strait of Hormuz. The fact that it shares common borders with the three provinces in Pakistan, Punjab in the utmost edge of northern east, Khyber Pakhtunkwa through tribal region previously known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the north and Sindh in the East further adds to the geostrategic significance of the province.
The most critical aspect of Balochistan’s geostrategic value lies in its proximity to the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Historically, the region has been a passage of different conquerors and foreign armies like Persians, Mongols, Ghaznavids, Arabs and British who had given Balochistan the importance by utilising it as a buffer zone between Afghanistan and the British India.
Pakistan can utilise the geostrategic location of Balochistan in both military and economic dimensions. The region is vital for the military routes since it has historically proven to be a prime position for quick projection of influence by logistical deployment and re-supplement to the Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East and China.
For defensive purpose, Balochistan’s strategic location will enable Pakistan to have airbase and Naval bases around Makran Coastal Highway for a keen observation of any military development in the region thus allowing it to exert influence on shipping trade through Strait of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean.
Similarly, Pakistan can put the gifted geography of Balochistan to use for amazing economic advantages.
The development of roads, rail networks and pipelines will help Pakistan act as a junction for Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Similarly, the development of Gwadar deep sea-port increases the prospects of promoting globalization in the region. The strategic location of Balochistan has also attracted various national and multinational business groups. The economic corridor between China and Pakistan promises a lot for the economy and also aims at making the transport of goods and services cheaper and efficient.
Gwadar Port and The Economic Game
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the southwestern district of Balochistan is meant to boost up the stumbling economy of the country. The biggest advantage is that the port is at the doorstep of the Strait of Hormuz and is expected to become a major economic hub for international trade in the Indian Ocean providing a transit route to the landlocked countries of Central Asia, especially for the export of natural gas and oil.
Pakistan can utilize the port as a shipping site for the natural gas which is present in abundance in northeastern Balochistan. The expansion of the port will attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region as well as provide Pakistan the opportunity to become a major channel for petro-chemical trade and step up its economy.
Gwadar port will provide access to enormous reserves of natural gas and oil in Central Asia, whose market access remains hindered owing to political and geographic conditions which include uninterrupted Russian interference, limited access to waterways beyond the Caspian Sea and little infrastructure to support export.
Makran Coastal Belt
Makran, a southwestern division of the province, shares 620 miles of coastline in the country. The establishment of naval bases and other friendly ports on the seaside of the northern edge of Indian Ocean will challenge India’s position in the area and will make Pakistan observe the Indian naval movements in the ocean. With the development of Gwadar port, Pakistan can monitor the powerplay in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The port can help Pakistan monitor the maritime cooperation between India and Iran in the Indian Ocean.
A Determinant of Pak-Iran relationship
Balochistan is the only Pakistani province that shares border with Iran. The position of Balochsitan makes it significant in shaping the bilateral relations between Iran and Pakistan, be it in geostrategic or socio-cultural terms. The province holds the key in determining the future of the two countries and developments in Balochistan will decide whether the two Islamic Republics come closer or fall apart in the future.
A close interaction among the people of both countries on the footing of shared religious and cultural tendencies, has the potential to amplify the economic, cultural and social communication between the people of Iran and Pakistan. In the same manner, construction of an oil refinery in Gaddani or Gwadar will do a lot for the promotion and betterment of economic cooperation between Pakistan and Iran.
The geographical location of Balochistan is best suited for the construction of gas pipeline between Iran-Pakistan as one of the most positive aspect of economic relationship. The proposed gas pipeline would profit both countries economically and politically. Unfortunately, the critical project could not get the shape as the United States continued to threaten Pakistan of economic sanctions.
Here is what it means for Pakistan
To sum up, the strategic prominence of Balochistan is not likely to fade in the near future and will continue to be vital for the overland transport and access to Afghanistan and Central Asia along with serving as a land-bridge between Middle East and South Asia. The gifted strategic location of Balochistan provides Pakistan a quick and easy access to the emerging markets and resources of Central Asian countries, also providing the opportunity to act as a liaison, connecting the Middle East and South Asia. The potential of Gwadar deep-sea port is also of extreme importance to Pakistan since it will allow Pakistan compete actively in global markets along the sea-lanes as well as the enable it to accommodate the massive incursion of imports and exports that go along with the growth.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.