With rise of economic hubs and economic powers, the world order is witnessing a paradigm shift. Many old economic and strategic alliances have gone through changes in drastic form either dissolving them or amending them, largely. In the contemporary geo-political scenario, all the countries are trying to form alliances for benefitting from them in diverse aspects ranging from social to cultural & economic to strategic. Today’s economic relations maintain a hidden strategic dimension as well, owing to the fact that these domains are now highly amalgamated.
The Asian continent has seen some very subtle changes in the geo-political situation when it comes to shift in and crafting of new alliance(s). One of the recent development in this regard is the formation of Pakistan-China-Russia’s new triangular nexus. This troika has been termed as ‘new super-power triangle’ by many analysts. Massive developments in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), functioning of Power of Siberia & the operationalization of Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean Oil Pipeline (ESPO pipeline or ESPOOP) has devised a point of convergence for these three countries; as they wish to link these three megainitiatives connecting the whole region. The recent Indo-US Strategic Partnership has also cemented this troika, making the mutual antipathy for India as another congregating point.
China & Pakistan have cherished friendly relations from a long time. They have collaborated in many fields like defense, infrastructure, energy, agriculture and communication. Chinese support for Pakistan against Indian aggression on borders as well as on Kashmir Dispute is of prime importance. JF-17 Thunder is an excellent example of Sino-Pak joint venture in defense while projects like building of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) & Karakoram Highway (KKH) illustrates the partnership of the two countries in infrastructure domain.
If we look at Russo-Pak cooperation, Pakistan has signed deals for engineering & procurement of Russian-made Klimov/Sarkisov RD-93 engines. Russian-Pakistan collaboration can also be seen by the joint military exercises of 2017 & the recent visit of Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar JavedBajwa, to Russian Federation further sheds light on the enhancement of ties in defense sector.
When it comes to Sino-Russian relations, the two countries are seen supporting each other on global political issues. China has always supported Russian stance on Syrian Crisis, even in international forums like United Nations (UN). Russia’s ‘Pivot to the East’ policy forges a far-reaching political alignment with China; promoting friendly acquaintances & promising development in Russia’s Far East regions as well.
In a joint statement, Chinese Central Military Commission Deputy Chairman Air Force General Xu Qiliang and Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said that both countries continue their strategic course towards further bolstering friendly and trustworthy ties in the defense sphere; calling this relationship “an important factor for maintaining global and regional security”.
China and Russia have delineated an enlightened New Vision of coherence and cooperation for development and steadiness in Eurasia and beyond. Pakistan’s active participation in this civilizational endeavor will provide a thorough support for the partnership.
CPEC has turned out to be game change for the global trade. The pristine location of Gwadar port has attracted not only the regional powers but also states that wish to expand their economic ties with the world. China plans to turn Gwadar into a mega port for trans-shipping goods worldwide, along with energy pipelines, roads and rail links connecting to Western China. The Chinese ‘Strings of Pearls’ strategy focuses on all the strategic sea lanes of communication in order to carry out massive trade and ensure uninterrupted supply of energy for China’s large energy-consuming modernization.
China has pursued the ‘Strings of Pearls’ safeguarding its dominance from South-China Sea to Bay of Bengal, from Arabian Sea to Gulf of Aden & further to Bab-el-Mandeb in the Red Sea. China has leased a port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka following this strategy. The Chinese presence in Gwadar Port gives it access to maintain steadfastness over Strait of Malacca in addition to having an eye over Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. China also maintains a logistics facility in Djibouti near Bab-el-Mandeb for anti-piracy sea patrols in the region.
Reports have suggested that CPEC will be host to an oil pipeline that will carry one million barrels of oil to China per day. This will be a welcome change for China, which currently imports about eight million barrels per day. Six million barrels of oil are transported through sea routes in China.
Russia has also shown keen interest on joining this economic corridor & developing a new trilateral partnership. Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bogdanov while on a visit to Gwadar showed great interest in Russia becoming a part of CPEC. Intelligence officials from both countries have also expressed interest in strengthening defense and military ties. Russia has long desired to have access to a warm water port, as Arctic Ocean remains snow-covered almost through-out the year, making Gwadar the best option.
Russian state-owned firm Rostekh Corporation is scheduling to construct a 680-mile gas pipeline in Pakistan at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, and an offshore gas pipeline is also planned. Despite historical divisions, Pakistan and Russia increasingly find themselves on the same side on international forums, both politically and ideologically with China as a common friend.
Turkish interest to join this trilateral partnership can be seen from President Erdogan’s said in a statement during his visit to Islamabad in November 2017. Turkish President reiterated that his country is eager to fortify ties with Pakistan. The visit was months after the Turkish President visited Moscow where Putin discussed strengthening of economic, diplomatic and military ties.
Turkey is still one of the major allies in terms of diplomacy, trade, economic ties and defense cooperation of the Pakistan. With Beijing, Ankara has enjoyed firm economic and military ties but their bilateral relations are set to hit the roof after the support showed by China over the attempted July 2016 coup during Erdogan regime. As for Moscow and Ankara, both the states are beginning to restore ties.
In response to the new emerging regional axis, the US included India in its shifting Asia Pacific policy, as part of its Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – often referred to as the “Quad”. The Quad also includes Australia and Japan along with the United States itself. The budding alliance is arrayed to counter China’s expanding growth, both economically & strategically.
India has actively pursued this individually and now aims to contain Chinese presence as it aspires to become a world, with China as its biggest competitor. The Quad also aims to compete against Chinese efforts to develop greater ties with its immediate neighbors. This includes Japan and Australia pledging to more aggressively patrol the South and East China Seas.
To counter the emerging troika, India is also developing Chabbahar Port in an effort to attract potential foreign investments and to curtail the development and progress of Gwadar Port. This is one of the biggest point that gels Sino-Pak relations, more. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US, seems to have made India the US’ linchpin in Asia and the Indian Ocean. Indian access to US weapons and support for Indian naval operations is an alarming development for Pakistan. This engagement has crafted out scenarios for Pakistan to rely more on Beijing & Moscow strategically and economically, as Washington keeps on hardening situations for Pakistan. Despite the fact that India purchased over US$1.5 billion worth of Russian military equipment in 2016, compared to Russian weapons worth US$45 million sold to Pakistan, the geopolitical tectonics are moving in other directions by smoothening Russo-Pakistan connections.
The military might of Russia combined with the economic & technological advancement of China can get un-believable benefit from Pakistan’s geostrategic location and will be able to transform international politics of Asian continent. Realignment policy of Russia and China towards South Asia is due to their shifting interests in this region. South Asian region has geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic significance.
This troika has the potential to bring stability & prosperity in the region. Many new projects would be initiated for linking Eurasian (EU) project to OBOR project. The Power of Siberia project, the Central Asia – South Asia Connectivity (CASA-1000) project, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and many other mega projects can amalgamate Eurasia with China, Central & South Asia to enhance the prospects of trade and bring development and access of natural resources to the region.
Turkey also wants to connect its oil and gas projects most notably Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline with Central Asia and further to South Asia plus China. This projection of Turkey can call for a quadrilateral politico-economic-cum-strategic bloc.
Military trade and drills will ensure security and stability in the region. In case of confrontation of the new emerging bloc, strategically, the troika is at winning position. If the number of nuclear warheads are compared; the combine Russian-ChinesePakistani warhead touch a considerable number of approximately 7600.
It is expected that Central Asian Republics (CARs) might be part of this alliance in future to construct a new bloc. Recently, Uzbekistan has pledged to work in close cooperation with Pakistan and Russia for regional peace emphasizing on regional counterterrorism policy for eliminating threats like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East-Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and others operating in the region.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is also playing a vital role in developing deep bonds between Pakistan, Russia and the Central Asian Republics (CARs). SCO aims to develop & build progressive political, economic, and security relations not only in Eurasia but now also seeks to strengthen them with South Asian countries as well.
Contributed by Sarmad Ali Khan
The writer is Staff Reporter & Content Writer at ‘Mélange Int’l Magazine’ & ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.