Gwadar Deep Sea Port on Makran coast, built with Chinese assistance is a great achievement for Pakistan. The port can provide an energy corridor for China and an economical low-cost trade route for the land-locked Central Asian States through the province of Balochistan. This port which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz was built by China but its operations were handed over to Port of Singapore Authority (PSA). Very close to this port, another deep sea port at Chabahar in Iran was built by India. Both the ports have the potential to link Makran coast to Afghanistan and Central Asia. But both these ports have strategic as well as commercial significance. India’s aim to build the port and oversee its operations was to extend its influence in the area and encircle Pakistan. But to the contrary, India will be encircled if China obtains similar influence in Gwadar. The port of Myanmar to the east of India has already been built by China.
India has built Chabahar Port on the Makran Coast to keep a watchful eye on Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the same coast. USA’s and Indian’s interests converge to the extent of the utility of this port to check China and Pakistan.
It may be kept in mind that Iran is pursuing a multi-billion dollar railways project which was named “Iran’s Eastern Corridor”. It will connect Chabahar port to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Central Iran. This project would have three branches including Chabahar-Iranshahr Fahraj County, Chabahar-Iranshahre-Zahedan-Mashahd and Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Milak. India is helping develop the Chabahar port, which will give it access to the oil and gas resources in Iran and the Central Asian states. This is done by India to compete with the Chinese, who are building Gwadar Port, in Pakistani Balochistan. Iran plans to use Chabahar for transshipment to Afghanistan and Central Asia, while keeping the port of Bandar Abbas as a major hub mainly for trade with Russia and Europe. India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar.
Work on the Chabahar – Milak – Zaranj – Dilaram route from Iran to Afghanistan is in progress. Iran with Indian aid is upgrading the Chabahar-Milak road and constructing a bridge on the route to Zaranj. India’s BRO is laying the 213-kilometer Zaranj-Dilaram road. It is a part of its USD 750 million aid package to Afghanistan by India. India and Iran are discussing building a gas pipeline between the two countries along the bed of the Arabian Sea to bypass Pakistan, using the Chabahar port.
Thus there are three obvious stakeholders (read: opponents) of Gwadar port; India, US and Iran. The interests of India and US converge on this very issue and in order to keep the port non-operational, both the countries are fanning and funding insurgency in Balochistan so that Pakistan remains unable to build rail and road infrastructure in Balochistan which is very vital for port operation. Baloch Liberation Army is basically an Indian and American proxy whose misdeeds are being glorified by Indian, Western and a part of Pakistani media. The issue of “missing persons” being pursued so vigorously is a part of the game plan. Pressurizing the apex court to indict the security establishment is a part of this plan.
Unfortunately, there is a fourth player of the game which Pakistanis have not so far been able to clearly identify. It is Pakistan’s so-called friend; United Arab Emirate. UAE has its own interests in Balochistan and Gwadar port. Everyone knows that Gwadar has the potential to undermine UAE’s commercial interests by taking trans-shipment business away from the port of Dubai. UAE is also one of the financiers of the BLA.
According to media reports and WikiLeaks, former DG ISI while briefing Pakistani parliamentarians claimed India and the UAE (reportedly due to opposition to construction of the Gwadar port) were funding and arming the Baloch. The infamous Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan, from where the drones operated, was built by UAE Sheikhs and handed over to USA. The UAE’s interests in Balochistan may not be for falcon hunting alone. Arabs are wary of Iran’s growing power and can cut a deal with anyone, including devil, to undermine Iran’s interests.
Baloch insurgents often claimed that they receive financial support from Dubai through Baloch diaspora. BLA, the darling of anti-Pakistan elements has strong presence in Dubai, Switzerland and Afghanistan and UAE’s intelligence agency is working in cover to support the insurgents.
Unfortunately, Pakistani diaspora working in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia bring back home not only their hard-earned money but incidental Arab influence. We have an unwarranted emotional influence of Arab countries which allows them to meddle in our internal affairs. They will, however, safeguard their own interest even if they have to sacrifice Pakistan.