Silk Road Politics
China may have its own interests in resurrecting the Silk Road but it falls upon the other countries in the region to make the most of the opportunities offered.
Reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road that Marco Polo traversed, though only a sea-based version of it, the China Maritime Silk Road has attracted a lot of attention lately. The ambitious Maritime Silk Road ( MSR) also has a land-based component called the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB).
With the help of linked projects and several infrastructural initiatives along the way, the MSR is planned to reach Europe, originating from China’s southeastern coast. What arouses international interest in this sea-based route is the number of international ports and countries that will link the sea route. It passes through Vietnam and Indonesia and several South Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. It also passes along East Africa, with Beijing’s plans to develop ports in Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Subsequently, it will come across the Red Sea, Suez Canal before finally ending in Athens.
China’s high–profile plans have attracted a lot of controversy from international circles, particularly as far as the route going through South Asia is concerned. With China’s rival emerging economy, India, concerned over the country’s rising influence over the Indian Ocean, the regional political situation becomes quite complicated for China.
Now that China has discussed generous plans of bringing Pakistan into the Silk Road project through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and related infrastructural development support at the Gwadar Port, regional politics become even more complicated, considering the historical rivalry between India and Pakistan. Clearly, the MSR and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plans are not going down very well with India and the country does have a lot of influence over South Asian political dynamics, as it is the biggest country in the bloc and the strongest economic clout.
Yet, despite the roller-coaster relations between Pakistan and India on the one side and their respective bilateral ties with China on the other, foreign policy requirements warrant that China maintain close ties with South Asia as the country has important historic, commercial, economic and diplomatic interests in the region. Like other regional blocs, South Asia also holds promise for China in terms of access to raw materials and a vast market. The strength and extent of China’s plans and her commitment to follow through with them has given her an edge over India as far as the regional power struggle is concerned. Yet, security concerns and economic constraints of other South Asian countries have contributed to sluggish progress as far as the MSR is concerned.
Take the case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The precarious security situation in Pakistan, especially along the Gwadar coast with the deep rooted internal turmoil in Balochistan, means that the promised development of the Gwadar Port has borne fruit at a rather sluggish rate. Last September,