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The new Great Game

Updated Oct 06, 2016 09:00am


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The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.
The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

THE recent India-Iran-Afghanistan agreement to develop a trade route from Chabahar to Central Asia has been portrayed by Indian commentators as having changed the historical ‘Great Game’ for control of the connection between South and Central Asia through Afghanistan. It has been claimed that the agreement will end India’s ‘isolation’ from Central Asia and Pakistan’s ‘stranglehold’ over Afghanistan and create a ‘new security paradigm’ and a ‘geopolitical shift’.

But the Great Game has already changed. It is being played on a wider canvas with different players and rules. The power contest in Asia is now mainly between China and America, and, to a lesser extent, between America and Russia — with India, Pakistan, Iran and others in subsidiary roles. In this context, the strategic and economic implications of the tripartite agreement are likely to be limited.

Read: US lawmakers question Indian plans for Iran's Chabahar port

Chabahar port has been on the drawing board for many years. Its main purpose was and will remain to expand Iran’s oil and other trade including with India.

Implementation of the trade route to Central Asia will remain challenging until peace can be restored in Afghanistan. With the collapse of the inter-Afghan negotiations, Afghanistan is likely to witness a further escalation of conflict and chaos. Transit to Central Asia via Iran, or Pakistan, is not viable at present.

Read more: Chabahar not a rival to Gwadar, Iranian envoy tells Pakistan

Even once the route is operational, its economic significance will remain modest. India’s oil needs can be met by Iran (and Saudi Arabia). The Central Asians do not have pipelines to Chabahar; they do to China. New gas pipelines are being constructed to Europe. Their mineral resources are also flowing north, east and west; not south.

America is and will remain a major player in the new Asian Great Game.

With a population of only around 50 million, Central Asia will not become a huge market for manufactured goods. It will be twice as expensive for India to send goods to Central Asia through Chabahar than it would be overland across Pakistan. Indian goods are thus unlikely to be competitive against Chinese products shipped overland.

Also read: Lessons from Chabahar

The strategic advantages for India are also questionable. Its influence in Afghanistan will be more dependent on Iran. Pakistan’s cooperation will continue to be essential to restoring peace in Afghanistan. Indian shipping lanes to Chabahar will be vulnerable to disruption. India’s limited influence in Central Asia will not dent that of Russia and China.

The new Great Game will increasingly revolve around China’s One Belt, One Road vision of land and sea connections between Asia, Europe and beyond. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the first component of this ambitious project.

In comparison to the Chabahar route, the strategic and economic implications of CPEC are enormous. It will transform China from a one- to a two-ocean power; enable a part of its $4000 billion annual trade to circumvent the Malacca straits and other potential choke points in the Indian Ocean and shorten China’s supply lines to the Gulf, West Asia and Africa. For these reasons, if no other, China has a vital stake in Pakistan’s strategic stability and socioeconomic development. The Chinese commitment of $46bn for CPEC projects is but the first instalment of the massive capital which China is prepared to deploy in Pakistan.

Instead of being distracted by the moves of its adversaries, Pakistan must remain focused on the implementation of CPEC. This strategic enterprise should not be allowed to be stalled or delayed by external pressure or internal politics, inefficiency or corruption. It would be wise to create a separate and independent CPEC Authority which can be a ‘one-stop-shop’ entrusted with achieving CPEC’s enormous potential for Pakistan’s development. CPEC projects must go beyond infrastructure development to encompass manufacture, consumer goods, housing, health, textiles, finance and other sectors. To this end, the interaction between Pakistani and Chinese private- and public-sector companies must be actively expanded and intensified. Some of the externally imposed limitations on CPEC investment projects, such as restrictions on ‘sovereign guarantees’ for debt finance, need to be removed expeditiously.

CPEC faces threats from Pakistan and China’s adversaries. These will have to be met forcefully.

India’s opposition has been announced openly. New Delhi will continue to utilise Afghanistan as a base to destabilise Pakistan and undermine CPEC. The recent spate of attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan is no accident. Pakistan will have to further enhance security for them and consider direct action to remove the Afghan-based threat from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Iran has assured that Chabahar is not designed to compete with Gwadar or CPEC. Pakistan and Iran can cooperate for mutual benefit: to end terrorism in Balochistan, expand trade, and construct the Iranian gas pipeline and a Gwadar-Chabahar economic corridor. However, Tehran often wants to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Some recent events have sent disturbing signals which Pakistan cannot ignore.

To balance the growing Indo-Iranian relationship, Pakistan must maintain and reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It would be in Pakistan’s interest to help in giving substance and form to the ‘Islamic coalition’ hastily formed by Riyadh. It should also convince the GCC states of the benefits of CPEC as a path to their closer connection with China.

America is and will remain a major player in the new Asian Great Game. To bolster its strategic contest with China, the US is moving towards a military alliance with India. The Obama administration is also cooperating tactically with Iran in the fight against the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and, less clearly, in Syria. It wants Iran to help in stabilising Afghanistan. But the US-Iran relationship could again become hostile if new sanctions are imposed by the US Congress or differences arise over Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah or Israel.

For Islamabad, the major threat now is possible hostile US action to destabilise Pakistan and disrupt CPEC. Wisely, China has invited US participation in CPEC. The US has declared, perhaps diplomatically, that it is not opposed to CPEC. But the signals from Washington, as it hosts India’s Modi, are ominous. The new Great Game is about to get tougher and rougher.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2016

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (169) Closed

Rohit Jun 12, 2016 04:04am

No country is opposed to CPEC. India's objection is limited to yhe part of CPEC projects in Kashmir which it considers its own territory, and not CPEC as such. Some elements in Pakistan are creating an imaginary enemy and score an imaginary victory. Chabahar is independent of Gwadar or CPEC. It connects Iran and Afghanistan to India and that is it at the moment. There is no scope for disruption as opined by author. So many editorials and opinions in Pakistani media about Chabahar only shows their unhappiness. If a new game is being played, India is ready politically, diplomatically, economically and even militarily. The best author could do was to question Pakistan leadership why Pakistan is not a part of this agreement? Are India, Iran and Afghanistan all wrong???

Mirza Jun 12, 2016 04:55am

pakistan should immediately establish a temporary Cantonment in Gawadar to protect CPEC. A bill to this effect should be passed in Balochistan assembly and endorsed by the National assembly.

Farrukh Mahmood Mian Jun 12, 2016 05:31am

For the first time I've seen an objective commentary on significance of Chabahar port versus CPEC. It's not Central Asia Market that India wants, stupid. It'the advantage that China will gain as a result of CPEC corridor that is keeping the Indians awake at night. Pakistan should just keep pumping hard at CPEC and forget about all other games - whether Great or not. It's almost a fight for survival for us now.

SK Jun 12, 2016 07:03am

Why can't we include India in the game? Why not prosper altogether?

Unnamed Indian Jun 12, 2016 07:09am

Unless China and Pakistan become democratic, the great game in Asia will continue. How can Mr. Munir Akram assume that the status quo will continue when China and Pakistan are representative democracies?

chacha Jun 12, 2016 07:12am

well said and well written

Yaqub Jun 12, 2016 07:29am

Brilliant just what I was saying.

Khalid Jun 12, 2016 07:37am

Excellent writing explaining the importance of CPEC and I hope authorities are also taking all measures to protect Pakistans interest and I mean the real Patriots and not the politicians.

Please keep up the good work.

eyewitness Jun 12, 2016 07:54am

Excellent article!!!

Hats off to Munir Akram for explaining this "great game" in such a simple but effective way.

Iftikhar Jun 12, 2016 07:56am

Well written and focused. I would like to add more to this. There is no comparison between gawadr and chabahar...gawadr is deep sea port

Imran rashid Jun 12, 2016 08:00am

The game has just begun. And I don't think CEPC is significant enough for India or US to really formulate policies around it. Pakistan is either relying too much on CEPC for everything or has no other weapon to challenge the growing influence of India and US in the region. The game is more about the strategic shift in policies and governance to the people. I don't see any of that happening in Pakistan in near future. And in the same time, India would grow incrementally. A decade more, and India would be inching closer to where China is today.

Pakistan should aim in the next decade to be where India is today. Nation is not just about geo politics. It's more about feeding it's poor and helping them grow. Better focus on that. CEPC isn't going to do everything for you.

ALI Jun 12, 2016 08:01am

spot on!

AHA Jun 12, 2016 08:02am

The things would have been very different if Pakistan would have used the stones to build the nation rather than throwing them at others.......Lack of honesty, Hatredness and religion fanatism

eyewitness Jun 12, 2016 08:02am

Excellent piece of information!!!

Hats off to Munir Akram for explaining this "great game" in such a simple but effective way on how South Asian and International powers are trying to shape the region.

Allahwala Jun 12, 2016 08:06am

It should not be forgotten as to why is it that Iran has formed this coalition with India. During the long period of sanctions, India was the only neighboring country with which Iran had economic relationship. Pakistan, under the US pressure, did not shake the hand Iran extended to it several times especially to form partnership in resolving the energy crisis. Even now, Iran has extended its invitation to Pakistan in the Chabahar deal.

Chabahar Jun 12, 2016 08:07am

In this great game Pakistan is isolating itself and depending on only one partner ...CHINA which is again dependent on US for its exports.with India gaming for manufacturing space China's influence will diminish and US will benefit from divided power in Asia.

eyewitness Jun 12, 2016 08:18am

Excellent piece of information!!! Hats off to Munir Akram for explaining this "great game" in such a simple but effective way and how South Asian and International powers are trying to shape the region.

Awaaz Jun 12, 2016 08:31am

20th century thoughts and policies will result in 20th century results!

Mohsin Jun 12, 2016 08:34am

Perfectly briefed. A robust and rigorous approach from Civil-Military leadership is required. Hopes are high.

Ferrukh Mir Jun 12, 2016 08:39am

Author has missed important player Russia, its future role.US plan to keep Afghanistan and Central Asia in state of turmoil to disrupt China energy lines which it intended to construct from CA to Western China. How this new grate game will be boosted in this region connecting it other part of game which will be played in South China Sea.

Kris Jun 12, 2016 09:25am

"..The new Great Game is about to get tougher and rougher.." - To whom? Just to Pak and China.

this Jun 12, 2016 09:33am

Very important points

Auginpk Jun 12, 2016 09:43am

Well then Chabahar port is not a problem. Good.

Mazhar naqvi Jun 12, 2016 09:46am

Brilliant analysis

Aman my foot Jun 12, 2016 09:48am

True, India does not have meaningful role to play in Central Asia

False, CPEC is going to do something great for Pakistan. Some oil will flow from Middle East to China through CPEC and Chinese good will come to Pakistan through CPEC. That's it

Bilal Jun 12, 2016 10:11am

As i Said before many times... Outclass Article... My bet goes for Gwadar succeeding...InshAllah.. Should invest in gwadar....

Amir Ali Khan Jun 12, 2016 10:15am

Absolutely correct .Our foreign policy has to be based on these geopolitical factors .

rehman karachi Jun 12, 2016 10:23am

The great game has already begun in Asia with all powers Usa, china & India taking help from Chabahar & Gwader.They are going to be top 3 economic super powers by 2030.

Muneer Jun 12, 2016 10:28am

True.Iran is already linked to Central Asia through innumerable land routes and Caspian Sea.Through development of Chahbar port it will control India to forward its interests with USA,thus it would be India which will become satellite of Iran and not vice versa.In terms of both long and short term perspectives Iran would be more friendly to China and Russia for forwarding its interest rather than the USA.As such in this new so called Great Game ,India is likely to be a follower and not even a small game changer.

Ashika Jun 12, 2016 10:36am

Iran chabahar has potential connectivity to Russia(via Turkmenistan,Azerbaijan ), Europe(via Turkey ),central asia (via Afghanistan ) and China .but pak gawadar only potential connecting China and central asia via Afghanistan. CPEC Afghanistan connectivity goes through Taliban controlled area but chabahar connectivity route is without Taliban controlled area so much stable and secure.

Ahmed baloch Jun 12, 2016 10:36am

MashAllah a realistic depiction.

Umar Jun 12, 2016 10:40am

Appericiate your vision. Wish our political leaders had an iota of wisdom so that they could have realised what's transpiring here.

Rajeev.Velagapudi Jun 12, 2016 10:45am

Just one project for Pakistan and so much obsession...

Please understand India has neither the time nor interest to disturb your lone project of your iron brother

Himanshu Jun 12, 2016 10:46am

Chabahar importance lies in enabling Afghanistan to bypass karachi port. Once that is achieved Pakistan will become land locked country with hostile Indian allies on majority of border.

Arup Saha Jun 12, 2016 10:51am

Do you know that road transport is much more expensive that by sea?

brar Jun 12, 2016 10:56am

I don,t under stand why there is so much hue and cry by Pakistan regarding this Iran port when they know that it is zero against Gawader ? There are many ports larger than Gawader not developed by China or any other country but India with its own money where as Gawader is Chines port they are spending money there doing every thing not for Pakistan but for Chine every country looks after its own intrests that is what India and China are doing otherwise Pakistan would have developed it long time go what the money is the problem. If I have my own money why will I pay 18% interest.

Surya Kant Jun 12, 2016 10:58am

Excellent article. Chahbahar port will remain in drawing board whereas Gwadar will become hub for global trade for China and its access to Arabian sea

Kashmiri Jun 12, 2016 11:07am

In short chabahar good for India, Iran and Afghanistan. Cpec good for china. Not much for Pakistan. Chinese are real business minded. Once they know pakistan is fully dependent on china. They will even allow cpec to use trade between china and india. Pakistan will not have any say on that. Period

Shah Hussain Jun 12, 2016 11:19am

What a great piece of article! I was very skeptical about Pakistan diplomacy, but it seems we are playing really well!

karachi Wally Jun 12, 2016 11:20am

Great Article, seen such incisive analysis after a long time. all should remember Munir Akram said it first on Dawn. Thanks

Jawwad Jun 12, 2016 11:25am

Very well written article. I think our leaders need to understand the importance of CPEC. And for that they need to bring political stability in the country.

Mansoor Jun 12, 2016 11:31am

We do not know where we are going. Any road will take us there.

Anis Jun 12, 2016 11:41am

Clearly devoid of sound logic and an attempt to undermine India's success in negotiating this deal. Yes there are superpowers in play but don't forget India is increasing its influence and Pakistan has a shrinking base of support. How much and how long will Pakistan just bank on China is a question which needs serious introspection.

njp Jun 12, 2016 11:47am

these ports and other things are just leverages, india's economy is not dependent Chabahar port, at the end country's strength depends on the people , world class product they produce and the service they provide, that's it...!!!, remaining things are all just games for the public consumption and to stay in power

Dr. Ashraf Kh Jun 12, 2016 11:48am

Great article, to the point from well respected diplomat.

amit Jun 12, 2016 11:59am

Would like to point to u that in this great game the classification of the player is based on certain criteria and pakistan and India are not the same sort of player as pakistan is more like a client state who serves the interest of its master for some perks. Also pakistan do not have any say in most of this events or game as per your understanding. look at what India is doing, it has more to do with its own interest in Indian ocean and growing chinese assertiveness. but for pakistan it want china to be its rescuer in everything economy, diplomacy, afghanistan, defence, for terroism support and pakistan at present is more like a iran during old great game that is a puppet of china which follows chinese order for most of its foreign policy as can be seen from NSG issue and also follows in most of the domestic issues.

Masood Jun 12, 2016 11:59am

Simply outstanding article Very well researched !

Asad Jun 12, 2016 12:00pm

I believe after 24th June things will go in Pakistan's way. The mistake that Modi just did in US Congress that he has nothing to sell except venom against Pakistan and request to US to replace India as its ally in place of Pakistan will pay more goods to Pakistan than India. The failure to join NSG will give a clear message to the world that Pakistan has a greater role in worlds politics than our naturally isolated neighbour.

Warrior Bin Qasim Jun 12, 2016 12:01pm

Like it or not but writer is absolutely correct.

Afghan Jun 12, 2016 12:10pm

The only outlet that Pakistan would be in touch with the outside world is China and rest have already turned their back to Pakistan because of double game policy on terrorism. It is matter of serious thinking for Pakistan that how much would be the volume and extent of this relation with China and how much it will cost Pakistan for the relationship it keeps with other neighbors and regional powers.

layman Jun 12, 2016 12:13pm

The author forgot the fact that china ships most of the goods to USA through sea. If china can do it India could try the sea lines.

Ofcourse India asked pak and it denied the land access and then India is going with the sea access.

Well the author is trying to educate the Indian readers that it is not profitable. good . but pay attention to the pak readers as well. The whole pak media reported that that the Chabahar port will undermine the Pak port.

Probably you need to help them as well :-)

AnSari Jun 12, 2016 12:17pm

A brilliant article! Surely, the New Great Game is now in the South Asian spectrum and looks eminent for many further twists and turns.

akram Jun 12, 2016 12:19pm

I think the pak army should take control of the entire CPEC project , even economic aspects as politicians have failed.

Ind Jun 12, 2016 12:35pm

Great game Paper out-

Good to understand, upcoming propagandas

LN Jun 12, 2016 12:42pm

Chabahar port is going to reduce costs by 40% and time by 60% for India! It's an excellent deal for India.

Javed Jun 12, 2016 12:44pm

Let's first evaluate Chinese investments in Sri Lanka and Mynamar. Both countries do not intend to have any further similar relationships with China. They view is Chinese simply use the location but their business is fully controlled by Chinese companies. The local economy benefits little.

Does Mr. Akram have a ground level plan to show how Pakistan local population will benefit from CPEC? He probably has no answer other than a high level picture of jumping in the water and expecting one to swim ashore on his own. Chinese have done this in Africa, parts of Asia and now it is Pakistan.

Freda Shah Jun 12, 2016 12:46pm

A good analysis of the emerging global politico-economic re-alignments.

Ali Abbas Shariff Jun 12, 2016 12:47pm

Very informative, but two factors were not taken into account, Indian naval expansion in Arabian sea and its recent naval exercises in South East Asia. The other thing is the change in USA white house will the new president continue the present policy of hate -love, Moreover Saudi Arabia and Iran have their own religious interest in Pakistan which should also be considered

Badrinath Jun 12, 2016 12:47pm

The first thing is I am an Indian, Second is we indians know that our benefit is in prospering Pakistan, we by any means not opposing to any good development in Pakistan, we oppose CPEC because it is going from disputed land that both of us are claiming and our only say is either do it in your own land or first resolve the dispute and then build it in your land it it comes to you and becomes your land, Now about indian relations with US, we have 1.20 Billion population we need to provide them jobs which we are doing through foreign investment in make in india, our main imports are Military needs and those are because we till 1990's did not have own manufacturing now we have started doing own manufacturing but we want to increase these defence production fast to the level that we become self sufficient in defence so we are doing these deals with US, Russia, Japan and many other countries. Continuing on next comment.

Abdulla Hussain Jun 12, 2016 12:50pm

A well researched article very well written. Hype created by Indian media will wake to a crude reality soon. the world order & grouping is changing fast.

Mady Jun 12, 2016 12:51pm

As usual this defense experts living in make-believe world. Economic-world seeks synergies, business-friendly environment to collaborate and grow their investments. You will deliver little for your country by being hostile to western economic powers and isolated.

AW Jun 12, 2016 01:00pm

Pakistan is uniquely positioned to be the beneficiary of the new great game which requires wisdom on part of the national decision/policy makers. We need to expand our focus beyond security as it relates to relationship with our neighbors. While we vigorously protect and implement CPEC program in close collaboration with China, we should also work with the newly established US-India alliance by pursuing a no-war pact with India and establishing a viable social and trade relationship with India. Peace with India is essential and is a critical success factor for our own socio-economic development. There is a logical limit to existing policy of defense spending without economic expansion.

Badrinath Jun 12, 2016 01:00pm

So where we were, yes our defence needs we need to be self sufficient so that to decrease our import bills and reduce our current account deficit. so in all this there is Nothing pointed to Pakistan, Questions Pakistani asks - Why india spending this much on defence ? we are not spending more we are just spending 2.5 percent of our GDP which is normal defence budget even Pakistan spends more than us 3.5 percent this year. if Pakistan's economy were 2 Trillion there defence budget would be $70 billion so why you blame us on defence spending, We have our own plans as you have yours we want to grow to be at level of superpowers and i am sure you too want same. but we are working with proper roadmap and you should also work with proper roadmap first motto of our government is to make friendly relations with neighbour and we are doing that, we are willing to be good friend with Pakistan too but to achieve that we need Pakistan to help ... read more in next comment

Shah Rukh Hashmi Jun 12, 2016 01:02pm

Firstly , like many other fellows from Pakistan, author categorize India with Iran and Pakistan that's simply unjust. In CPEC , Sino-Pak relations are more assertively dominated by China not by Pakistan, putting it simply in Asymmetrical relations, similarly in Central Asia , Iran, Turkey or Pakistan are small players in comparison to India, Russia and China. We should come out of the denial now that India is of no match to Pakistan. Even if Indo-Iran is a balanced relation, yet Afghanistan is more easy to deal with New Delhi than to Islamabad, thus negating Tehran's role to determine or influence New Delhi-Kabul relations.

mohsin Jun 12, 2016 01:16pm

It i rightly said by the writer that U.S will not interfere directly but through India, an easy weapon for China and Pakistan for U.S.

Sid Jun 12, 2016 02:03pm

When Pakistan has paranoid people like this author as ex UN ambassador, then there is no hope for Pakistani away to even have a space to think otherwise. There is a constant feeding of hate and fear against India in Pakistan media and establishment. Pakistan remains in grand delusion that it is so important that it is in center of a great game. There is no game only economical interests. And since Pakistan fails to understand this it does not have any real economy.

Sajjad Hussain Gopang Jun 12, 2016 02:08pm

Agree with Author. Sir, you are great.

Naveed Alam Khattak Jun 12, 2016 02:16pm

Eye opening.

Guest Jun 12, 2016 02:17pm

There is no end to this fascination with so called great game mainly due to the false pride of being a prominent player of the game.

Anees Jun 12, 2016 02:23pm

Fantastic description of the game going around Pakistan. India wants to push Pakistan and move over with a step on its face, CPEC is both defence and offence for this dodgy deal. I agree, there has to be a separate body that controls CPEC and should work independently to any political pressures.

Helping Hands Jun 12, 2016 02:30pm

Nicely put in a nutshell.

Indian Jun 12, 2016 02:59pm

India's only objection is that CPEC passes through Indian territory currently under Pakistan control.

Jayagor Jun 12, 2016 03:00pm

I don't understand one point though- if this great game is between America and China then how can either Saudi Arabia or Turkey- both staunch US allies can possibly support CPEC if USA is against the project? Is USA really against this project and if yes why?

Indian Jun 12, 2016 03:05pm


Akram Jun 12, 2016 03:05pm

@Rohit "No country is opposed to CPEC" So, what exactly was Yadav doing in Balochistan?

Reader Jun 12, 2016 03:12pm

Good read. Good suggestions. US interests in the region are always destabilizing factors for Pakistan.

Basit Ali Jun 12, 2016 03:15pm

Good points but here is my question: Is or was Indian Economy dependent on Chabahar Port? Did they become 2.6Tn economy due to it?

Jawad Jun 12, 2016 03:23pm

Rarely do I get a chance to read an article with substance like this. Fantastic piece.

Jawad, UK

Hello Jun 12, 2016 03:26pm

I hope Pakistan will use CPEC for their own business too. Anti-India basing will not help in long run

Imran Ahmed Jun 12, 2016 03:27pm

CPEC cannot be bulldozed by force alone, all potential stakeholders or adversaries must be engaged and negotiated with.

INDIAN LOVE Jun 12, 2016 03:33pm

India want to be in the part global governance , through UNSC , NSG , MTCR , G20 , BRICS , SCO , APEC , etc so it is trying to build influence in every nation through investment . India have invested in Bangladesh , Nepal , Bhutan , Sri Lanka , Iran , Afghanistan , UAE , Saudi Arabia , Qatar , Mongolia , Russia , Vitanam , Mexico etc within two years. So investing in all these countries shows India's policies are not Pakistan centric.

Basit Ali Jun 12, 2016 03:35pm

Has anyone heard of "The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM)??" The multi-modal corridor will be the first expressway between India and China and will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Hasnat Aslam Jun 12, 2016 03:36pm

For the first time I've seen an objective commentary on significance of Chabahar port versus CPEC. It's not Central Asia Market that India wants, stupid. It'the advantage that China will gain as a result of CPEC corridor that is keeping the Indians awake at night. Pakistan should just keep pumping hard at CPEC and forget about all other games - whether Great or not. It's almost a fight for survival for us now.

Hasnat Aslam Jun 12, 2016 03:37pm

For the first time I've seen an objective commentary on significance of Chabahar port versus CPEC. It's not Central Asia Market that India wants, stupid. It'the advantage that China will gain as a result of CPEC corridor that is keeping the Indians awake at night. Pakistan should just keep pumping hard at CPEC and forget about all other games - whether Great or not. It's almost a fight for survival for us now.

Hasnat Aslam Jun 12, 2016 03:37pm

An exceptional article.For the first time I've seen an objective commentary on significance of Chabahar port versus CPEC. It's not Central Asia Market that India wants, stupid. It'the advantage that China will gain as a result of CPEC corridor that is keeping the Indians awake at night. Pakistan should just keep pumping hard at CPEC and forget about all other games - whether Great or not. It's almost a fight for survival for us now.

Iftikhar Husain Jun 12, 2016 03:49pm

Nice balanced article the great game is being played by the Indianstrying to isolate Pakistan but india will fail inthis respect. China has proven the sincere partner will always side with Pakistans interest while Indias double game is understood by the Chinese will p;ay a contrurive role in this part of the world.

Punch Jun 12, 2016 03:52pm

Perhaps you don't realize that ocean transportation is far more efficient and economical than over land.

Karachite Jun 12, 2016 04:49pm

Well researched article by Munir Akram Sahib. No wonder the Indians are worried and confused. Their game plan is falling apart. One day they will have to accept the reality of Afghanistan which the Americans have learned the hard way after spending billions of dollers. The Indians are completely off target about their dreams for Afghanistan. They should check the history. Afghans / Pashtuns have never ever been influenced by foreign elements. They will happily accept indian dams and infra structure development but will never submit to their dictates. Pashtuns are dispersed in areas under the domain of Afghanistan & Pakistan but have never been in the control of Kabul and Islamabad. We Pakistanis know this very well and are handling them accordingly because Pashtuns have blood relations with Pakistan not the Indians.

Mohammad S. Khalid Jun 12, 2016 05:04pm

In this great game Pakistan is putting eggs in its own basket (i.e. Gawadar is on Pakistani Soil) and India is relying on Iranian basket. International Diplomacy is dynamic and ever changing. What if Saudia Arabia and Iran resolve their issues amicably, then a strong new triangle of Pakistan-Saudai Arabia-Iran will emerge. In such circumstances what India will do and where Chah bahar will stand.

unbiased Jun 12, 2016 05:07pm

This is good. However another major issue which is not extensively under discussion is the water issue. India is already building dams reducing water flow to Pakistan and now Kabul plans to build dam on Kabul river which will certainly impact Pakistan Agriculture. The government is completely naive and do not have this on their major to do list. This is going to be the most important issue for Pakistan having agriculture as the major export.

Karrar (Vancouver) Jun 12, 2016 05:12pm

The writer is suggesting to further drift away from one of our only two non-hostile neighbours i.e Iran which is disastrous idea both economically and politically. We continue to hurt our own industries and economic growth due to power shortages although it has been several years that electricity and Gas connections has reached our boder with Iran but we shy away to buy under US/Saudi pressures, in effect not being sincere to ourselves. Whereas, India is developing close relations with both Iran and Saudia Arabia without offending either and it even continued to trade with Iran during sanctions era without offending US. We need to learn something out of it and make all other nations respect our economic interests.

Moona Jun 12, 2016 05:34pm

Long live Pakistan and China. No one can stop the CPEC.

Harisingh Jun 12, 2016 06:00pm

The last 71 years (since the end of second world war) the planet has been in relative peace. This has been the most 'non-violent' (relative to previous periods) and the most economically uplifting period of the entire human history. A lot (if not all) of the credit for this goes to the able leadership of the United States. They have calmly negotiated the cold war and peacefully brought an end to it.

I am not saying they are perfect but no other world-power has ever been this magnanimous. From internet, to microchips, to vaccines, to open education system (MOOCs) and everything in-between, no other world power has come close to sharing its goods for betterment of the world. In fact China's wealth comes from US deciding to lose its manufacturing jobs to China instead of being a protectionist nation. US as a world power has always been more sharing than any other power before it. Unfortunately, China has displayed the exact opposite behavior so far.

ahmed Jun 12, 2016 06:39pm

Pakistan has to first improve internal economy, mode of governance, education, infrastructure, etc. else Pakistan will be be kept palyed by outsiders as is Afghanistan. inmho, if Pakistan is truly capable of "Pakistan’s cooperation will continue to be essential to restoring peace in Afghanistan" then first and foremost as Pakistani and as muslim Pakistan need to develop trust with Afghans and Afghans reciprocate that. then together they can become strong to get rid of outside influence and enable outsider for use of their land as economic routes on Pakistan and Afghanistan terms. there is a better way to enable all to co-exist.

Yousaf Bangash Jun 12, 2016 06:42pm

Very well written and simole article to understand the imp of Gwadar deep sea port. It will play rich dividend for boosting the economy of our country,therefore parliment should pass a resolution for the Military cantonment in Gawadar for its smooth fuctioning and security.

M M AMIN ( Old Ravian) Jun 12, 2016 06:44pm

Well reasoned ,balanced and a useful article for mass information . Axis of India Iran Afghanistan is a distraction and Pakistan need not take more than a gadfly . Well done sir .

Yousaf Bangash Jun 12, 2016 06:46pm

Bery well articulated and simple article .There is need of establishing military cantonment for the smooth funtioning as well as safty of the port

InfoSeeker Jun 12, 2016 07:21pm

Access to central asian countries is only a secondary goal of Charbahar. Primary goals are Iranian trade. Mr.Akram is also overlooking the important cost advantage: it is 6 times cheaper to ship goods by sea to Charbahar from India and then use very cheap Iranian oil for the road trip to central asian countries. This is a cost advantage that India and Iran have that China and Pakistan do not.

Secondly to even suggest India with its huge young population and developing economy is somehow a subsidiary player in Asia. This simply shows Mr.Akram's anxiety to hyphenate Pakistan with India. This is one of the key reasons that all diplomatic efforts failed miserably when he was a serving diplomat. Overlooking objective facts due to such emotions is doom to fail you as it has always done!

sajid Rafique Jun 12, 2016 08:26pm

Yes. the only thing is that Taliban is resurgent and it may put an end to this future reality.

khan Jun 12, 2016 08:49pm

"CPEC projects must go beyond infrastructure development to encompass manufacture, consumer goods, housing, health, textiles, finance and other sectors."

Why would china give loan to create competition for their companies? China is funding road building to dump their goods. Local industries would be decimated.

Laugh out loud Jun 12, 2016 08:54pm

The most rubbish analysis I have ever read. Just giving Pakistanis something to cheer about when there's nothing else. Why does the military and media hype up everything so much. CPEC has some benefits but it is not some magic medicine that will fix all failing institutions of Pakistan. Blaming India and USA from now itself seems to be strategy of setting up a bogeyman for the future when CPEC doesn't turn out to be all that it's hyped up to be.

sssd Jun 12, 2016 08:56pm

Now here is a man who can think straight, India is our existential enemy and will remain so until it is neutralised in our strategic sphere. Fortunately for us India is a third world country lacking geopolitical clout to become a player in the new great game but the danger is that it will try to destabilise Pakistan covertly from Afghanistan.

We need not worry much about the US which has decisively been defeated in Afghanistan after 13 years of war, what it couldn't achieve with almost 300,000 troops and 42 NATO nations in tow; it cannot achieve now with just a token presence, the current fuss is all about the US saving face. SO we should carry on our business with china and focus to be a major player in central asian game by virtue of our Geo-Strategic position.

N.S Jun 12, 2016 09:11pm

@Sid Pakistan ranks 24th in the world in GDP(PPP), touching one trillion USD, also it is the 6th biggest country in the world in population, a nuclear state. The per capita GDP of India and Pakistan is almost same.

Khawar Saleem Aslam Jun 12, 2016 09:12pm

Very comprehensive review and analysis.

Atif Khan Jun 12, 2016 09:21pm

Another Munir Akram article that is a MUST READ for our youngsters

Realist Jun 12, 2016 09:47pm

Your article is a breath of fresh air.

Parvez Jun 12, 2016 09:49pm

Excellent analysis.

Osman Jun 12, 2016 10:13pm

Thank you

Mohammed Daud Jun 12, 2016 10:14pm

Thank you Munir Akram, when you say something every sincere Pakistani listens to it carefully. There is no doubt that once CPEC projects are completed successfully; the economic conditions in Pakistan will not be the same as you see it today. Pakistan will be a prosperous and self-supporting country. The adversaries of Pakistan and China, well-known to us, will never want Pakistan to get out of its present state of turmoil.

D C Joshi Jun 12, 2016 10:40pm

The geopolitical situation is changing fast in the Asian hemisphere. Pakistan has suffered enormously because of hegemony of Military and the vast industrial complex that it owns and controls with immeasurable denial and damage to its general populace. Islam,in the eyes of Pakistan Military and its majority of its people, is a political system and arrogates to itself the only true way of life and politics.All other faiths seem heathen to them. Such mediaeval concepts are not in harmony with the modern times and its thinking.In an age aspiring to space travel and technology marvels such constricted thinking relates to neanderthalm era which is extinct.

   Both China and Pakistan are military dictatorships.In the conflict between 

free and liberal democracies and the arrogant rule of dictatorship, the latter is always a loser.

brr Jun 12, 2016 11:14pm

This is a loosing game, you can spiral down to isolation and loose everything. Stop playing this game, save pakistan. Otherwise Paranoid people like you will be blamed as they need to be blamed.

Umar Jun 12, 2016 11:33pm

Very well articulated analysis. Unfortunately the government is sleeping CPEC is being politicised, decades long relationship with the GCC compromised only for short-term personal gain. How can our leaders implement an independent strategy when their own assets are in the UK and USA.

SAEED MASOOD Jun 13, 2016 01:32am

Pakistan must get its things right and get serious about CPEC...The Indian vultures with the help from America are trying to fly over Pakistan on one hand it is building Dams to stop water to Pakistan and on the other hand it is lowering the prices of commodities like rice to trouble Pakistan exports and openly opposing CPEC. the Pakistan opposition is worried about Panama Papers and stepping on Nawaz Sharif.. Please Pakistan politicians gather patriotism and honor and work only for Pakistan...

K. Hussan Zia Jun 13, 2016 01:43am

Any confrontation between Iran and Pakistan will be a grave mistake. Both of them already have enough on their hands. Chabahar can never compete with CPEC on economic terms.

Given the existing overland connections, Iran also does not need the port for access to Afghanistan. The Indians do have an interest of sorts but economically it will a sinkhole.

There is a need for Pakistan and Iran to review the situation amicably and resolve any problems that may be there on bilateral basis. Letting third parties in will complicate matters enormously and make resolution much more difficult.

anon Jun 13, 2016 02:06am

@Akram Yadav was abducted from Iran.

Nitin Jun 13, 2016 02:09am

Used and discarded by US . Pakistan should not fall for the same thing with China.

Sj Jun 13, 2016 02:30am

Pakistan would gained a lot of money and peace if it would given route thru wagah

Aqdas Jun 13, 2016 03:04am

Surprised to read that no country is against CPEC by our learned readers.Indian government is on record of saying it will do ANYTHING to sabotage it.Britain has voiced opposition, USA is not happy, Europeans arent happy as well.

If the project is so small why the international opposition?All the countries say they want what is best for Pakistan but when something positive finally happens for Pak all are against it.Strange wishes.

khan Jun 13, 2016 03:06am

ROHIT; When India stops its subversive activities to destabilize Pakistan through Afghanistan, things will cool down automatically.

Arshad Jun 13, 2016 03:27am

@SK not trust worthy, sadly

khan Jun 13, 2016 03:30am

ROHIT; India should stop meddling in Pakistan's affairs (exporting terrorism through Afghanistan---financing terrorist groups to destabilize Pakistan). Things will cool down automatically. Every action has equal and opposite reaction.

surrinder gill ADVOCATE Jun 13, 2016 03:42am

If Americans withdraw their business from China, its economy will collapse in one day. In USA stores we see from pencil to every product made in China. It is due to one party rule and cheap forced labour there. In a democracy you can not force any one for labor and fixed minimum pay.

Jahangir Pechuho Jun 13, 2016 03:53am

the article is well organized and depicted the real designs of some players ..

Adeeb Jun 13, 2016 04:32am

CPEC is good but we should keep other options open and available.

Your Name Jun 13, 2016 04:44am

@Mirza :Pakistan has already promised military security to Chinese Gwadar personnel!

Jawad Jun 13, 2016 05:30am

WOW! Brilliant analysis, Great article, Articulated thoughts...

Kumar Jun 13, 2016 05:56am

@Zak You don't seem very well versed in global happenings. India was the only country (not Pakistan) who defied the US and continued a relationship with Iran while Pakistan simply toed the US line.

Rana Jun 13, 2016 07:18am

Good Analysis.

INDIAN Jun 13, 2016 08:25am

Why are the two countries positioning Gwadar v/s CPEC and not working together? When will the two governments, the politicians, the citizens of two countries give up the fighting and work together to the benefit of the entire region.

In this fight, it's China, US and Russia gains at the expense of the two neighbors.

Kamal Jun 13, 2016 09:11am

@SK Only if somehow by magic, Indians can let bygones be bygones - I mean the 400 years of Mughal rule. Highly unlikely.

Indian pathan Jun 13, 2016 09:22am

@Zak Good luck for your imagination world.

azaad Jun 13, 2016 09:38am

Well, CPEC is a good project form the entire region. In time, India will join this, which will benefit all parties. Chabahar, will also be a part of this network.

However, you will all see a strong willingness by Pakistan to become flexible on Kashmir, under Chinese pressure to settle the Kashmir issue with India.

Simply put: the sermon from China is, settle Kashmir with India or China will hold up CPEC. As very smart businessmen why would they pour investments in disputed areas. Remember, Chinese trade with India is 1000% of what it has with Pakistan and Iron brother needs trade.

Expect a framework for the settlement of Kashmir on the lines of the Musharaff formula, being signed off over the next few months, India and Pakistan opening trade and travel between the two countries and India, joining the CPEC, China joining the Chabahar project - it makes sense for all to cooperate.

Pasha Jun 13, 2016 09:54am

Chabahar route is too costly. 100% Agree with the author.

Ali Jun 13, 2016 11:04am

What will be the ultimate result not now but in the coming future , all the regional countries will benefit from both Chabahar and Gawadar.

Jawed Sheikh Jun 13, 2016 11:18am

i really like the way he writes and explains current day matters of importance

Rajiv Mahajan Jun 13, 2016 11:38am

Very insightful article showcasing Pakistan's interests in the region, but easiest way to checkmate india is to open trade route for indian goods via land to afghanistan and central asia it will make indian goods expensive via iranian port.

rana ijazz Jun 13, 2016 11:37am

no one to object the both gawadar and chahbahar . i,m sure these two will change the global business routes . bravo to both . in fact a great game changers. we are calculating it on emotions rather than on calculator . anyhow both are too late and by 10 years or so and the fault lies with the stake holders ....good interesting routes both but in my opinion gawadar is much more attractive..

Shivan Jun 13, 2016 11:53am

@Kamal Mughal rule does not mean a rule by Pakistanis

Taimur Jun 13, 2016 12:11pm

Pakistan must announce GB as 5th province...

m@k Jun 13, 2016 01:59pm

True That!

"It would be wise to create a separate and independent CPEC Authority which can be a ‘one-stop-shop’ entrusted with achieving CPEC’s enormous potential for Pakistan’s development."

Bilal Mustafa Jun 13, 2016 02:16pm

India is a big brother like a quantity and Pakistan is strategically bigger in a good context. So join hands for the betterment of humanity

Taimoor Khan Jun 13, 2016 03:35pm

Well written article as usual. The trade volume and the amount of products that the three third world countries namely India, Iran and Afghanistan generates doesn't warrant the so called trade route between them. It more like a security alliance to keep Indian presence inside Afghanistan via Iran.

Mady Jun 13, 2016 03:54pm

Whatever the great game is, Pak as a player need to know what are its goals, objectives. Else Pak would be reflecting why I did not score in-spite of so many moves whereas other players would be preparing for the next game.

Ahmed Ali Jun 13, 2016 04:17pm

A balanced and an in-depth analysis, covering all aspects of South/Central Asian Geopolitics. Its always a pleasure reading Munir Akram's pieces.

Mian Amir Hakim Jun 13, 2016 04:28pm

A very wise and precise analysis.

Ijaz Jun 13, 2016 04:34pm

Brilliant analysis

Mohammad Aryubi Jun 13, 2016 04:38pm

The writer has mindlessly advocated direct action in Afghanistan to ward off TTP's anti-Pakistan activities using Afghan soil. Any such unwise action, however, would trigger a befitting response from the Afghan side.

Deja Jun 13, 2016 05:57pm

Gwadar is only connecting to China, while Chabahar will connect Rusia, EU, afghanistan with middle east-africa-india.

abdul w qureshi Jun 13, 2016 08:08pm

as long as the wealth of Pakistan and the foreign exchange of expatriate is tranfered to foreign countries Pakistan will never be able play a part in the stragice advantage in the world .you have to build industry in Pakistan and not the housing industry . every body interested in construction companies . it is sad story of Pakistan and I hope the planning commission should develop a five year plan on emphasis on building dame . you have to make cheap energy

Zahid Jun 13, 2016 09:01pm

Great Article.Just one thing though.You can't change your neighbors so get your act together with Iran rather than joining the fanatics in Turks and Saudis.

Amjad Mahmood Jun 13, 2016 09:53pm

Well written by an experienced and visionary diplomat also constructive proposals he added but civil government in Islamabad (presently in london)is seems inside ICU and army is acting on behalf of it. This situation Pakistan can't bear longer and a corruption free bold leadership is badly required.

Gul Hasan Jun 14, 2016 12:19am

The writer is pointing out serious matters concerning Pakistan. I ask him that he is more aware of how our politicians, bureaucrats, and Army has dealt with our issues in the past, what makes him think that by pointing these core problems Pakistan will face in coming months and years the same politicians, bureaucrats, and Army can cope with it now. Islamabad and Pindi have failed the Pakistani nation before and they'll do the same now. Islamabad and Pindi are in the business of corruption, can't tackle national issues. I don't have faith in them.

Mohammad Aryubi Jun 14, 2016 01:48am

For all intents and purposes, Chabahar has turned out to be a game changer for Afghanistan and Central Asia. The writer, however, has tried in ,to downplay the strategic and economic significance of the said seaport.

andy Jun 14, 2016 02:56am

India must be given a trade route through Pakistan in order to stop the build up to war, India is isolated and is feeling the heat that's why they did the Mumbai attacks and tried to blame Pakistan!

S J Jun 14, 2016 03:26am

@Harisingh ji - which peaceful world you are talking about. Millions of people are being killed in last few decades. Since they are not European or American means there has been no hostalities or human suffering.

ROHIT PANDEY Jun 14, 2016 04:24am

Stop playing Machiavelli, Pakistan.

Start playing a savvy technocrat,scientist, entrepreneur and businessman?:):)

These "experts" are good at playing Machiavelli, and nothing more?:)

Machiavellianism is "the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct" ...and that is the DEFINITION of Machiavellism.:):)

Prasad Jun 14, 2016 07:37am

See...there is nothing to worry about Chabahar... relax and focus on CPEC...

Rational Jun 14, 2016 08:33am

@Rohit I agree word by word. What if even any country opposes other for its own benefit. From Lahore

Modern Appeasement Jun 14, 2016 10:05am

The differences between Chahbahar route and Gwadar route is natural,simple, Gwadar route is historical,economical,while Chahbahar is artificial and expensive. Let there be a race and competition between the parties involved,who complete the route first,and who develop the Gwadar Port a replica of Shenzhen,HK,or Shanghai Port. Shenzhen is the world busiest & largest port of the world handling containers.

Azhar jamil Jun 14, 2016 10:26am

If we focus to develop our relationship with India and Iran. It's in our hand and not impossible. The new great game will be in our hand. And that is the future of this region.

jam shed Jun 14, 2016 11:36am

@Chabahar Chinas influence will only diminish if India can produce cheaper and better what China offers to the world today. But India still struggling and competing with BD, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia and host of other South American countries in low and medium priced textile. China on the other hand is present in both in lower (smaller percentage than BD, Indonesia, Vietnam etc;) but much more in higher value and value-add consumer machinery, tools, kitchen products, electronics where India is completely absent. It takes years and years to establish in any market and above all consumer acceptance. There is no magic,no short-cuts and India has to go through the same route as any country has gone. Capturing market space from China would not be that easy specially the large and reliable supply China provides. China is not its full potential yet but has taken over the world already.

jam shed Jun 14, 2016 11:39am

@Himanshu Hallucination at its best..

Kabeer Jun 14, 2016 02:42pm

@SK "Why can't we include India in the game? Why not prosper altogether?" good idea but India is under influence of US and due to this influence they abandoned the Iran Pakistan India (IPI) gas pipeline would India dare to displease US at this point of time I think NO !

Raza Sibtain Jun 14, 2016 05:59pm

"To balance the growing Indo-Iranian relationship, Pakistan must maintain and reinforce its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It would be in Pakistan’s interest to help in giving substance and form to the ‘Islamic coalition’ hastily formed by Riyadh. It should also convince the GCC states of the benefits of CPEC as a path to their closer connection with China." !!!!!!!!!!

To balance this growing relationship Pakistan must shoot itself in the foot with a 22 inch blasting cannon. Lol wow the afghan dope is really working there on Mr Irfan.

abid Jun 14, 2016 08:44pm

very nice write...

Khan Jun 14, 2016 10:50pm

A fine objective analysis by Munir Akram. CPEC offers unmatched economic and strategic advantages to its participants. Build to 21st Century requirements of the entire region, CPEC would generate enormous pull/momentum for countries of the region and beyond to connect. It has potential to pull the region together despite Indian efforts to subvert and disrupt. Afghanistan, Iran, Middle Eastern and some of the Western countries are willing to participate. Pakistan and China must pursue its timely completion in its wider sense (to include road and rail networks, industry, power etc) as strategic project for regional peace and prosperity, while keeping watch on any subversive efforts by India and the likes.

Azfar Qureshi Jun 14, 2016 11:15pm

A good assessment by Honourable Munir Akram, But I tend to differ with his views about CARs being more inclined towards Eastern & Western accesses. Though these accesses are prominently highlighted more regularly, we must not overlook the fact that Chahbahar is not the only port at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz, Iran has developed/developing another port namely 'Jask' just East of Chahbahar. this port links Strait of Hormuz with Caspian sea ports. Iran is also developing a two-way pipeline along this axis linking Caspian region with Indian Ocean besides rail link. When looked purely in economic terms, this combination of Jask & Chahbahar, provides the most viable route to CARs for their exports & imports. The only route that can best it, is through Gawadar Port.

Khalid Rahman Jun 14, 2016 11:42pm

Erudite and analytical article. Brings to light real intentions of India. It's a pity that throughout history, this great country has targeted Pakistan as an enemy and instead of resolving conflicts, it has aiming at Pakistan's interests. Pakistan reciprocates. Why can't both the countries live like good neighbors, like United States and Canada?

Soulspeek Jun 15, 2016 09:27am

@N.S India Pakistan same?

GDP (Nominal) of India and Pakistan is $2050 billion and $250 billion respectively in 2014. On PPP basis, GDP of India and Pakistan is $7,376 billion and $882 billion respectively. India is 9th largest of the world in nominal method and 3rd largest economy in ppp method. Nominal ranking of Pakistan is 43 and PPP ranking is 26. India's economically largest states Maharashtra has GDP ($289 billion) greater than Pakistan.

Out of 33 Indian states/UTs, 24 states/UTs are more richer than Pakistan.

The value of Indian Rupee is 1.56 times that of Pakistani rupee. i.e. 100 INR = 156 PKR.